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Community Center Programming at Harvard-Kent Could Shift

The mayor's budget proposal would officially remove the Harvard-Kent as a community center site, but programming there may not change.

The mayor’s budget proposal would eliminate the Harvard-Kent School as an official community center location for the city, but it won’t necessarily cut the programming currently based at that site, according to a city official.

Last week Mayor Thomas Menino announced a budget plan for the 2012 fiscal year that included staff changes at five community centers around Boston, including the Harvard-Kent School -- one of several community center locations in Charlestown.

The budget plan would, essentially, pull city staff out of the Harvard-Kent site and “redeploy” them to another community center location, according to Sandy Holden, the public information manager for Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF).

Meanwhile, BCYF officials would work with the local nonprofit that manages the Charlestown Community Center to find a way to preserve the programming offered at the Harvard-Kent – without support from the city.

“Things shouldn’t look much different,” Holden said. "In fact, some parents might not even be aware there's any change."

The mayor’s proposal to shift staff at community centers is the second phase of a plan he began last year, when the city dropped support for eight community centers, including the tennis center in Charlestown. Charlestown Against Drugs has taken over management of the site. (You can read more about that .)

“That helped our budget a lot,” Holden said. “We’re the largest department in the country, in terms of municipally-run community centers.”

“We’ve grown to 46 centers,” she said. “But our staff hasn’t grown with that.”

For clarification, the city’s contribution to community centers is largely in building maintenance and costs. The city keeps the lights on and a site operable, but a local nonprofit manages the cost of programming and staff.

The nonprofit council responsible for Charlestown’s Community Center is Ginny Mansfield. She declined to comment for this story, but Holden said the director of BCYF would be meeting with Mansfield to discuss the transition out of the Harvard-Kent site.

The mayor’s budget plan still has to win approval from the City Council, so aspects of this proposal could change. If it’s OK’d, however, 30 community center workers around the city will be relocated to centers that are deemed “more productive,” Holden said.

What factors did BCYF staff look at to determine what makes a center more or less “productive?” A variety, Holden said, including hours, usage, programming and the number of additional sites available within close proximity.

The other sites that would be closed are Harborside in East Boston, Orchard Gardens in Roxbury, Tynan in South Boston, and the Mason Pool in Roxbury. According to a Globe report, the Madison Park Community Center  would be transformed into a citywide focal point for sports and activities that would be named “Rec-Hub.”

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