Schools opens on a sour note for some at EMK Academy

Juniors and seniors at the EMK Academy for Health Careers found out this month that due to an “emergency situation,” their first day of school would be at the now-vacant, former Endicott School off Blue Hill Avenue, above. The school has been closed since 2014. Seth Daniel photo

‘Emergency’ relocates juniors and seniors to vacant Endicott building

When Boston Public Schools (BPS) students returned to the classroom for a new school term this week, most of them knew where their school is located.

But that was not the case with the juniors and seniors at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (EMK) in the Longwood medical area who only recently found out that they would be reporting to the previously vacant former Endicott School off Blue Hill Avenue near Franklin Park, and most of them are not too happy about it.

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius confirmed the decision at the Sept. 1 School Committee meeting – just eight days before school was to start – describing it as a “emergency situation” brought on by Wentworth Institute of Technology backing out of an agreement to house the school this year due to construction on its campus, though it does intend to bring the school on campus in the future.

Now, after striking out in all other areas, and with nowhere else to turn, EMK students will not be attending classes near the medical neighborhood – which was always the selling point for the Academy – but rather across the street from the zoo and golf course.

“Our team has made more than 50 calls to different locations to see if they have space available,” said Cassellius. “I’ve made a couple of calls myself. EMK leadership has agreed that using the former Endicott School building is the best option for now so we can start the school year…It is our goal to continue to look for appropriate space for the EMK school.”

Cassellius said the change at Wentworth came suddenly earlier this summer when she had a meeting with the president and his team. It was there that she learned that they were happy to host EMK in the future, but not this year.

She said she contacted Bunker Hill Community College and UMass Boston looking for temporary space, and also engaged a realtor. They looked at the Dimock Health Center, Madison Park High School, the former Edwards Middle School in Charlestown – as well as other schools like the Timilty and Washington Irving.

However, to date, the only option that has emerged is the Endicott building.

“We know it is not the perfect space for them, but it is really an emergency space for them right now as we continue to search and look for a more appropriate space,” Cassellius said. “We’re just looking for a great partner now.”

She said they need 15 classrooms and about 20,000 square foot. Previously, they temporarily used 9,000 square feet at Connors Hall on the Northeastern University campus for 11 years.

EMK attracts many students from Dorchester and Mattapan, in great part because of its promise of intern partnerships with health institutions and the fact that they would be in school near the Longwood Medical Area.

“We’re really worried that this temporary building at the Endicott will slowly become our only option left,” said EMK Junior Yolanda Oliveira. “The Endicott is a tight space for us, and it makes students and staff uncomfortable.”

Senior Erinayo Omisone said that many students decided to attend the EMK for its focus on health careers, and for the facilities that would accommodate that focus.

“I’m opposed to the Endicott building; the space is not big enough, plus there is no gym and no auditorium,” he said.
“It makes no sense to have a health school in a building that has nothing to do with health and is set up with typical middle school or pre-school kinds of classrooms,” he added.

Sean Cray, a faculty member at EMK, said he was concerned that the temporary solution would become much more permanent.

“We went into Connors Hall at Northeastern as a temporary solution and that temporary solution became an 11-year solution,” he said. “We don’t want something like that to happen again.”

Cassellius said if they find a better space, BPS would be willing to move EMK from the Endicott in the middle of the school year.

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