Boston Public Schools superintendent Carol Johnson said she is re-examining a proposal to move Dorchester’s Boston Latin Academy to Hyde Park.
Johnson’s stance on the move was a major cause for concern among parents and teachers attending last night’s school committee meeting, held at English High School in Jamaica Plain. Opponents of the plan believe the new location, which previously served 1,100 students cannot contain the BLA’s 1,700-student body and will lead to longer commutes.
The proposal was initially raised last month in response to concerns from BLA parents that the building was falling into disrepair and lacked adequate study hall space for the exam school’s academic programming, according to Johnson.
Johnson said the plan would allow the Boston Arts Academy, which currently shares space with the Fenway School, to move into the BLA’s current location on 205 Townsend St. and allow the Fenway School to expand and accept some of the 800 students currently on it’s waiting list.
"Our work is never about a single school,” Johnson said. “We want to address the needs for all of our schools.”
While Johnson reiterated that there would be adequate classroom space available after converting unused administrative offices into desk space, she said limited space in non-academic areas like the complex’s 400-seat cafeteria would necessitate changes to the school’s schedule.
“I wouldn’t want to short change academics due to lunch cycles, but with a skillful master schedule, we could make it work,” Johnson said.
Many BLA parents were unswayed. One mother expressed concerns that a tighter cafeteria schedule would have students “eating lunch as soon as they come in the door or right as they leave for home.”
According to data made available by BPS, there is a considerable difference in size between the Townsend Street and Hyde Park locations with the BLA’s current home taking up 332,366 square feet compared to Hyde Park’s 186,589 square feet.
“It’s a complex question," Johnson said in response to parents’ concerns. “I’m going to do my due diligence before coming back with a recommendation."
School Committee member Michael O’Neil pressed Johnson several times during the meeting to establish a clear timeline for when parents and faculty could expect a final proposal, noting that space issues were a particular concern.
BPS spokesman Matt Wilder also said that while the Hyde Park complex offers 93 classrooms to the BLA’s 87 classrooms, a “good number” of the Hyde Park classrooms are geared towards special education and English Language Learners programs and are considerably smaller than standard classrooms and would require some remodeling prior to any move.
Although work has yet to begin at the Hyde Park complex, BLA science teacher Paul Eaton said custodians and faculty have seen a number of workers taking photographs in the BLA building in preparation for any renovations the BAA might need to make to accommodate a performing arts curriculum.
Following the school committee’s presentation, 35 people were signed up to speak, including state Rep. Carlos Henriquez, a BLA alumnus.
“We were always told [following the school’s last move in 1991] that the BLA would get a home it deserves,” Henriquez said. “205 Townsend was that home.”