When Naama Goldstein’s friends started having children, they all moved out of Boston for suburbs like Arlington, Brookline, and Newton for one main reason: None of them wanted to put their children in Boston’s public schools.
But Goldstein, a 42-year-old native of Israel, stayed put. She settled in Allston and found a suitable elementary school for her son, across town at the Mission Hill K-8 School, a high-performing pilot school. But recently announced plans to move and expand the school have led her to question the decision to live in Boston.
“You can’t just pick up a community and put it in another part of the city,’’ Goldstein said yesterday after she testified at a City Council hearing. “The community will be broken apart.’’
Last month, the Boston public schools announced that 13 schools would be moved in an effort to expand high-achieving schools and create about 700 new seats. The plan calls for the Mission Hill K-8 to move to the recently closed Agassiz Elementary School facility in Jamaica Plain. The plan would also move Fenway High School to the Mission K-8 building. The School Committee is expected to vote on the plan tonight.
The move has angered Councilor Michael P. Ross, who called yesterday’s hearing, and many Mission Hill residents, who fear the diverse hilltop locale is losing its neighborhood identity. More than 50 residents and school parents showed up to yesterday’s hearing.
Opponents also say the Agassiz building, which the school would share with the new bilingual Margarita Muniz Academy high school, is in poor condition.
In 2009, a state Department of Public Health report outlined three dozen recommendations to improve the building’s environmental conditions and air quality, the cost of which factored into the decision to close it.
“Our son’s school would be moved to facilities that have a documented history of subpar performance; it is a sick building,’’ said Goldstein, who said her son has asthma. “We don’t think he can be healthy there.’’
Defending the move, school officials said that there are eight other elementary schools within the 1-mile “walk zone’’ of the Mission K-8’s Alleghany Street location, but only four within the same distance of the Agassiz.
They also say the Agassiz building adds a cafeteria, gym, and auditorium to the school.
“Our goal has been to expand excellence, to try to give more students the opportunity to go to the best schools in the city,’’ Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said in an interview. “We are not pulling out of the community. We’re not closing a school. We are putting the Fenway High School here, which over 500 parents put as their first choice.’’
At yesterday’s hearing, Ross grilled school officials and urged them to scale back the reorganization, saying it would still give officials a victory.
The School Department and Johnson were forced to look elsewhere to create more seats in the district after plans to relocate Boston Latin Academy to Hyde Park collapsed under a mountain of protest.
Ross said Johnson should not solve one problem at the expense of his neighborhood.
“With this vote, the School Committee would be sealing the fate of a beautiful, wonderful neighborhood that has such potential to withstand the pressures it’s under, but not without the magnet of a school that has drawn people for years to move here,’’ Ross said after the hearing. “It’s clear that the School Department is turning its back on downtown families.’’
John M. Guilfoil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.