In July, Boston Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson announced a proposal that would shuffle schools in Boston: to uproot Boston Latin Academy (BLA), from its current location at 205 Townsend St. in Dorchester to Hyde Park, in order to move Boston Arts Academy into its place. The current BLA facility at 205 Townsend St. has several maintenance issues, and the school and its students could truly benefit from a renovation to the existing building or a move to a state-of-the-art facility in a central location. However, moving BLA to the former Hyde Park High Educational Complex (HPEC) in particular is not a good idea for several reasons.
First, the former HPEC cannot accommodate BLA’s student body or its rich academic and extracurricular programs. Latin Academy is at capacity, if not above, therefore it should be expanded not squeezed into a smaller space. BLA occupies 324,188 sq. ft, while HPEC occupies only 185,199 sq. ft. Accordingly, last year BLA housed 1750 students, while Hyde Park held 1011. Moving this highly enrolled school to a smaller location, (especially considering the city’s other plan of expanding the exam schools to include a 6th grade), is not the answer. The numbers simply do not make sense; and the numbers translate to individual children. There is no reason to suggest that overcrowding is beneficial to academic achievement. Even worse for the city would be to make BLA more excusive.
Secondly, BLA is a highly sought-after school because of its history of academic excellence, high rate of college acceptances, and success of its graduates in post-secondary institutions. Such a widely popular school should be conveniently accessible to all students in Boston. Of the MCAS top-5 high schools, Latin Academy has, by far, the largest proportion of students of color, who are poor and/or who are immigrants. The fact that Latin Academy is much more diverse than its rivals is one of its greatest strengths. According to the Boston Globe, Boston Latin Academy ranked first in the state with its 10th grade English section of the 2009 MCAS, and was tied for 2nd in math. BLA was one of only six schools in Massachusetts with more than 95% of students scoring proficient or higher in ELA, Math, and Science, Technology/Engineering. In 2010, Boston Latin Academy ranked third in the state in the 10th grade English MCAS and fifth in the 10th grade Math MCAS. Why risk upsetting this formula?
Thirdly, BLA is the most dollar-efficient school in the entire district; any change will cost money, and now is not the time to make superfluous changes. Furthermore, Boston Latin Academy is vested to its current location. Alumni, parents, and teachers alike have contributed to murals, memorial tree-plantings, a greenhouse, a new orchard, and many other physical improvements to the Townsend Street building. BLA has received grants to update its language lab, and also money that has been used for wiring and HVAC. These are investments in education. The city should also consider the benefit of a long-term investment in education by allowing BLA to expand in its current location.