6.22.2005

Old School: Oak Square & Davis School

Sad story in the Boston Globe today, about the closure of a Catholic school in Oak Square in Brighton. It's close enough to Newton Corner that some Catholic families from Newton sent their kids to Our Lady of the Presentation School in Oak Square, rather than Our Lady's in the Lake.

Anyway, the focus of the story is what the closure means for the neighborhood.

The prognosis is not good. It was seen, along with the Y and the fire station, as one of the anchors of the community, and one of the few reasons families were willing to stay in the area in the face of increasing numbers of college students renting in Oak Square. Now that it's been closed by the archdiocese, some of these old families are pulling out for the suburbs.

I know how school closures can hurt neighborhoods. I went to the wonderful Davis School in West Newton, which was the focus of many family-oriented neighborhoods north of the Mass Pike until the city closed the school 25 years ago (the kids on West Newton Hill south of the pike tended to go Claflin or Pierce). There was an active PTA, loads of activities like the famous Halloween party, a great new gym, and a kids' library where I developed my love for reading and history.

I was in 5th grade when Davis closed. Kids were sent to Franklin or Horace Mann instead, or went to private or Catholic schools. It was very disruptive for a lot of families and local neighborhoods, and West Newton square seemed to lose something that day in June 1980. The closure of the branch library on Chestnut Street a few years later really turned West Newton Square from a part of the community to more of a commercial center.

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