Boston school officials are planning to close the Jackson Mann K-8 School in Allston as they push forward with a school construction program and facing a dramatic decline in enrollment.
Officials notified staff and families about closing the school at the end of the next school year during a meeting on Wednesday, ending nearly two years of consternation over the school’s future. School officials had initially planned to replace the Jackson Mann’s deteriorating building on Armington Street and had been seeking an alternative location for the school during construction.
But with student enrollment dropping across the city, some families were skeptical that Jackson Mann would remain open and transferred their children to other schools, causing enrollment to drop from 610 in fall 2018 to 429 last fall.
“It really has been an aggravating process,” said Jean Powers, whose daughter is a sixth-grader at Jackson Mann. “They told us over and over they had no plans to close our school.”
Over the past five years, the school system has lost more than 5,000 students, dropping total enrollment to about 50,000 students in 125 schools. In a controversial move two years ago, the School Committee voted to close two high schools that were sharing a crumbling facility in West Roxbury, and is now carrying out a long-term plan to phase out the middle schools.
School officials are also embarking on a campaign to renovate or replace aging school buildings. The city has built very few new schools since its last major construction boom in the 1970s. Jackson Mann opened in 1975 and an engineering review two years ago uncovered significant issues with several building operation systems, including the roof and air handler units, and recommended it be closed in the near future.
Boston Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said Thursday that the district intends to demolish and replace the Jackson Mann building, which is also home to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The district will temporarily move that program, which serves about 70 students, during construction, she said. The completed building will also house a new school.
Cassellius said closing Jackson Mann was a difficult decision that reflected a number of factors, such as the building’s poor condition, a lack of temporary space to accommodate a school that size, and the likelihood that very few current students would still be at the school by the time the new building was finished. Declining enrollment was not a driving force behind the decision, she said.
School officials decided to notify families and staff a year before the closure so they would have ample time to find a new school. Jackson Mann students will be given priority in the school assignment process for the 2022-23 school year.
“We decided to go ahead and let the community know and have a real respectful and effective process to ... help them find their next best fit,” Cassellius said.
The closing is part of a broader facilities plan that will be presented to the School Committee next week. Chair Alexandra Oliver-Dávila said a vote will likely come in October, and that she shares the superintendent’s “commitment to ensuring that all students are learning in spaces that are reflective of the excellence we know students can achieve.”
Acting Mayor Kim Janey supports closing the Jackson Mann, a spokesman said.
“We understand that closing a school building is disruptive to families, and BPS is doing everything possible to support the Jackson Mann School community through this transition,” Nicholas Martin, the spokesman, said in a statement. “The decision to close the Jackson Mann was thoughtful and informed by a variety of factors, and the transition process will be equally thoughtful and collaborative.”
The district’s master plan, called BuildBPS, seeks to modernize schools across the city, he said. “This is key to ensuring greater equity of program placement to meet the needs of English learners, students with disabilities, and other populations,” he said.