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School's Move to JP Approved

The shuttered Agassiz School will be home to Mission Hill K-8, a well-regarded pilot school.

It's unusual for Mayor Thomas Menino's hand-picked School Committee to vote any way other than unanimously.

But that's what happened Tuesday night as a divided board approved a major reshuffling of schools. The big news for JP is that Mission Hill K-8, one of the city's top-performing schools, will move to the former Agassiz building.

But passage of Superintendent Carol Johnson's plan came only after strenuous objections by City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents Mission Hill.

“Tonight’s plan destroys, destroys the future of a community and severely weakens one of your greatest schools," said Ross, according to the Boston Globe.

A motion to exclude Mission Hill K-8 from the plan (effectively scuttling several aspects of the plan) failed on a 3-3 vote, the Globe reported. The vote for the superintendent's plan then passed 5-1, with the lone "nay" cast by School Committee Member Mary Tamer, according to the Globe.

Joining Mission Hill K-8 in the old Agassiz building will be a new bilingual (Spanish/English) high school.

Speaking of the old Agassiz building, the principal of Mission Hill K-8 asked school administrators to greatly improve the grounds, interior and windows there, according to the Globe.

In a recent conference call with reporters, Johnson addressed concerns over the air quality and condition of the Agassiz:

"We made a number of investments over the last two years in the Agassiz complex," Johnson said. "We feel confident the changes that have been made respond to any concerns about the physical facility."

She said in that conference call that there will probably be additional renovations at all the schools involved in the reshuffling. For instance, the Agassiz space will need changes so it can accomodate high school students, said Matt Wilder of the schools' public relations department.

When it comes to JP, the Mission Hill K-8 will be in the West Zone for purposes of which families may attend. North Zone families who already send their children to Mission Hill K-8 may continue to do so.

"West Zone families, particularly in Jamaica Plain, should see this as a good option," Johnson said in the phone call.

Before Tuesday night's votes, educators at Mission Hill K-8 had said in the school newsletter that they did not want to move. However, they also said, "We believe that the philosophy, mission and spirit of our school can thrive in any location."

A copy of that newsletter is attached as a PDF.

James LaFond-Lewis November 16, 2011 at 01:14 PM
This is clearly a win for JP. The Mission Hill School is a class act, its kids nurtured as only the best schools do. It is telling that they didn't want to move but also felt that they could do their work wherever they were assigned. I'm not surprised that Mike Ross, a Mission Hill resident, was upset. There will be a sizable hole to fill up on Allegheny St.
Caeli Bourbeau November 16, 2011 at 02:04 PM
A hole that will be filled by a high school, leaving Mission Hill, a neighborhood with more than 1000 kids ages 5-14, with one elementary school - the Tobin. In two years we have lost the Farragut and now the Mission Hill School. A good day for JP, a sad day for MH, a shameful day for BPS.
Christina Fritsch November 16, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Though this could be a great thing for my daughter, I am really disappointed. The building of the Mission Hill School is beautiful old school architecture with arches and wood detail. The library alone is breath taking. How could the super intendant mess with something that works so well? I am impressed that the heads of Mission Hill School say they can work anywhere. I hope so, because the building has a big impact on how well kids learn. The playground at Agassi needs a big over haul. My daughter played in it last week and after seeing how rusted the chains were that held up the bridges, I had to pull her off. I am not an over protective mom but that playground scared me.
Stacy Farinella November 16, 2011 at 02:33 PM
We will really miss the old building but it will be nice to be able to walk my daughter to school. I think/ hope/ pray that the school will continue to thrive, despite the building. Maybe with some renovations, fresh paint, and art work... Christina, that playground is relatively new (maybe 6 years old?) so I'm surprised that it already has rust. I take my 3-year-old there quite a bit & haven't felt like it was unsafe. That said, I would love it if they tore it down & put in a simpler, more natural playground that would be more in tune with Mission Hill. I would also propose a name-change to the "The Deborah Meier School of Boston" or perhaps "The School formerly known as Mission Hill" ;)
Christina Fritsch November 16, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Yes Stacy, a more natural playground and environment would be so much better. I don't know, it just felt very rickety. But I have a five year old. Maybe greasing the chains will help.
John McLoughlin November 16, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I was walking by last week and noticed some broken equipment on that playground. Hopefully, when a school is present, it will be maintained. I would also advocate for the removal of the hedges surrounding the play area. The hedges create some blind spots. Having said that, I rarely see anyone loitering in those areas.
Dax November 16, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Excuse me, I thought there were some serious problems with that building. Wasn't that a factor is shutting down the Agassiz? Have those problems been addressed?
Deb Nam-Krane November 17, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Boston doubles down on attrition in the school system- again. If I were a parent in Mission Hill I would be livid and start exploring my options. As a parent in Boston, period, I wouldn't send any child of mine to a sick building like the Agassiz unless it were completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside out. They didn't do that, I promise.
Stacy Farinella November 17, 2011 at 02:48 AM
Wow, Deb, that's harsh. Should I just give up on the school that we love, that has loved & nurtured my child for the past 4 years because they'll be moving to a building with a poor reputation? I have yet to see anything that actually "proves" that it was a "sick" building? Could it be that the population served had a higher-than-average incidence of asthma & asthma-induced illness? I'd be interested to hear from the teacher and students who complained to see if they've been any healthier since the Agassiz closed. Anyways, they have replaced the windows, a new roof is in progress, and they'll have another air quality test performed. And knowing Mission Hill, they will spend a lot of time outdoors, which I think is important. I guess I would be suspicious if my super-healthy kids started getting sick but, until then, I'm going to take the leap of faith that it will be all right.
Larry Cronin November 17, 2011 at 11:53 AM
I grew up in Mission Hill, and attended Mission High. Despite my long term linkage and homestead in Jamaica Plain, I have to say this move is atrocious. The idea that you can transplant a school from its indigenous neighborhood and expect it to be the same is folly. This is a shameful ill gotten gain for Jamaica Plain. "Mission Hill K-8 of Jamaica Plain"--ridiculous.
Sarah Lydon November 17, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Did the Farragut close? What are the plans for that building? Seems like such a great location for a fairly central, almost neighborhood-straddling school.
Chris Helms (Editor) November 17, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Hey Sarah, yes, the Farragut was also closed, as Caeli points out here in the comments. That's part of why Mission Hill doesn't like these changes. The Kennedy Academy for Health Careers is slated to expand into the old Farragut building.
Stacy Farinella November 17, 2011 at 07:51 PM
I think there's a charter school moving into the Farragut?
Save MHS November 18, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Jamaica Plain, consider the community that is being uprooted. Mission Hill School has deep roots in its neighborhood with many partnerships established over years. Those will be lost. More than half of our families chose the school based on walkability. An untold number chose us due to our location on their feasible daily route, which includes other siblings' schools and parents' workplace. Not all of us can make the move. Some will not transfer because the Agassiz' failed design has assured that no school placed there has ever succeeded. The debunked "open classroom" plan will overwhelm the children's senses. The meager natural light shining through the few windows will stymie them, and the ventilation issues cannot be solved. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_classroom Some will not transfer to the Agassiz because their children's respiratory vulnerability will not allow them to experiment with a sick building. This is not a win for JP. It's an assault on a small but thriving community in Mission Hill, a disenfranchised neighborhood that is being targeted again by the "global" interests of our city's top administration. JP is a neighborhood identified with social consciousness. Prove that reputation true. If you want more access to our school, JP, lobby to restore its citywide status. Tell the city to stop this uprooting. A destabilized school in substandard facilities is not what you really want. https://www.facebook.com/SaveMissionHillSchool
James LaFond-Lewis November 18, 2011 at 02:34 PM
To say that a school depends on its building to prosper is like saying that an idea depends on a book to exist. The educational ideas and ideals that have propelled the Mission Hill School transcend place. It will thrive in JP, in or in spite of the Agassiz facility. That is not to say that Mission Hill or its eponymous school is being well treated in the process. JP can legitimately embrace the school if it accepts the BPS reasons for the move. I believe that the move is a result of Boston Arts Academy's success and need to use all of its space on Ipswich Street. That success has displaced its co-tenant on Ipswich Street, Fenway High School, whose new home will be at the Allegheny Street facility. BAA wins more space. Fenway (whose students didn't want to leave Ipswich St.) gets a facility fairly close to its previous site. Mission Hill School moves to JP where its educational ideas will be supported and parents will continue to be engaged. This is not a great thing for Mission Hill because it loses the grade school, but if it can embrace its new high school good things can continue to happen. Mission Hill should take the challenge, make new partnerships with the new community moving in and work on becoming whole again rather than promulgating a fight. I love Mission Hill. I believe in its power to transform this loss into something that happened to a community, not something that destroys a community.
Harry T. October 03, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I'm assuming the new roof has been completed by now. Curious how the process went and what exactly was completed. We have done roofing in Mission Hill quite a lot and always enjoy the work we do for schools: http://www.olympicroofing.com/mission-hill-boston-roofing/

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