Boston school officials Wednesday said they will likely close two schools in Allston that share a deteriorating building in two years for extensive renovations, but some parents worry the announcement signals a possible permanent closure.
Parents, students, and staff of the Jackson Mann K-8 School and the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing were notified of the possible relocation in a letter Tuesday from interim Superintendent Laura Perille. The two schools share a building, which also houses a community center.
She noted that a recent engineering review uncovered significant issues with several building operation systems, including the roof and air handler units. The short-term plan is to make necessary repairs, but the engineering report also suggested that at some point the building “should be shutdown and rebuilt.”
However, Perille stressed the building “is a safe and secure environment.”
“Nothing in the facilities analysis indicates that there is an imminent danger to students or staff,” she wrote.
Relocating the Jackson Mann, which serves more than 600 students, could present a challenge, as the system has few shuttered buildings while juggling other old schools in poor condition. Just two weeks ago the Boston School Committee unanimously approved giving the city its largest building, the deteriorating Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park, to be sold off.
A presentation prepared for the Boston School Committee Wednesday indicated that programs at the Jackson Mann may need to be scaled back to fit the school in a smaller alternative location, which likely could be outside Allston-Brighton.
The school system has been shrinking enrollment at Jackson Mann in recent years. Over the last three years, enrollment has declined to 610, from 775 , according to state data.
By contrast, the Horace Mann, which has fewer than 100 students, should be easier to relocate.
Jackson Mann parents have been on guard about a possible closure since November, after school officials released a facilities plan that found Allston-Brighton has far more classroom seats than students who live in those two neighborhoods. Most Jackson Mann students are bused in from other neighborhoods where there is a shortage of schools.
During public testimony at the school committee presentation, Jean Powers, the mother of a Jackson Mann fourth grader, said she appreciated that the school system is giving the school a two-year notice to prepare. But she criticized the letter for being misleading, noting there are no available buildings large enough for the school in Allston or Brighton.
“I ask you to call it what it is -- a school closure,” she said.
The school has a sizable autism program.
School officials, however, insist they have no plans to shutdown either school.
“Despite the long-term outlook of the facility, we are not pursuing closure of either school at this time,” officials said during the presentation.
For now, they plan to make “short-term” repairs to the roof, windows, and air handler units so the building, which opened in 1975, can make it through the next year or two.
Community meetings will be held in the coming weeks.
The announcement follows a controversial vote by the School Committee in December to close Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, which share a facility on the VFW Parkway, due to because of deteriorating conditions in that facility, also built in the 1970s. School officials say that building is in such poor shape that it could not continue to operate beyond this June.
The relocation of autism programs from the West Roxbury high school complex is not going well.
Teachers and classroom aides were supposed to move with the students to new locations, but Perille announced Wednesday night that negotiations with the Boston Teachers Union have reached a stalemate over the issue.
Many parents as well as some students voiced frustration to the School Committee about the stalemate and a proposed relocation to the Burke High School in Dorchester. “Our kids are being used as pawns,” said Michael Kincade, whose son has autism.