Teachers, residents hit plan to move Latin Academy to Hyde Park

A group of Boston Latin Academy teachers and some community members are protesting a proposal that would relocate the Dorchester school on Townsend St. to the Hyde Park High School building.

Paul Eaton of Dorchester, who has taught advanced placement physics and chemistry at the school since 1999, said he and others were caught off guard by the proposal. “I’m not a naysayer,” he said. “I’m not against the administration, but this whole thing…they want to move us to a smaller school and it doesn’t make any sense.”

He and others are planning a pair of community meetings to talk about the proposal. The first is next Tuesday (Aug. 23) at 2 p.m. at the Area E Police Station in West Roxbury and the second is on the following Tuesday at Boston Latin Academy at 6 p.m. He also is encouraging opponents of the plan to attend a meeting of the Boston School Committee, which must sign off on the decisions, on Wed., Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. at 26 Court St.

Public Schools officials have scheduled their own series of community meetings, including one on Aug. 22 at Boston Latin Academy, another at East Boston High School on Aug. 24, and another at Brighton High School on Aug. 31. All are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

“They say it’s a proposal, as if to mollify people,” Eaton said. “But they’re going forward with these community meetings so it’s something that they want to have happen.”

A spokesman for School Superintendent Carol Johnson said the proposal is aimed at increasing student access to high-quality programs and addressing parents’ concerns about the condition of the Townsend Street building.

Matt Wilder, the spokesman, said in an e-mail that the plan would allow school system administrators to relocate Boston Arts Academy and expand the successful program, and give Fenway High School, which currently shares space with Boston Arts Academy, a chance to expand. He said response to the proposal has been a mix of supporters, opponents, and those interested in knowing more, adding that Latin Academy would be moving into a better facility, since the Townsend St. building needs “considerable renovations.”

“Hypothetically, if we were to move Boston Arts Academy to Hyde Park [as some have suggested], it would require us to make major changes to the building to accommodate [its] unique space needs,” Wilder said. “This would mean we would have to renovate two schools instead of just one. That is not an efficient use of tax dollars, in our opinion.”

Eaton maintained that the 1,750-student Hyde Park building is already at capacity and would not be able to accommodate Latin Academy. “I don’t think it could hold another 250 without expanding into the basement,” he said. “But the Hyde Park building couldn’t hold us as we are right now.”

Wilder replies that the Hyde Park building can be retrofitted. “We believe on an initial review that the Hyde Park building can comfortably accommodate the current BLA community,” he said. “Again, some retrofitting may have to be done to better suit BLA’s needs.”