Struggling to close a $3.5 million budget gap by March 24, the legal deadline by which it must present a balanced budget to the school board, Boston Public Schools (BPS) is looking at school closures.
BPS has managed to come up with over $50 million in cuts so far, with the goal of bringing in the budget at $809.7 million, a 1 percent reduction from this year’s budget.
“We are looking at ways to close the gap and stay away from school closures, but we are scraping the bottom of the barrel,” said BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder.
Most of the system’s empty seats are at the elementary level, Wilder said. If a school is closed, it will likely be an elementary school, he said. In Jamaica Plain there are 162 empty seats at eight elementary and K-8 schools.
According to BPS’s current proposed line-item budget, those eight schools, which vary in size, next year have budgets ranging from $1.6 million—for the 149-student Joseph P. Manning Elementary School—to $7.2 million—for the 779-student Curley K-8 School.
The Louis Agassiz and James Hennigan Elementary Schools have proposed budgets of $4.2 million; the Ellis Mendell Elementary School, $2.8 million; the John F. Kennedy Elementary School, $2.3 million.
The Rafael Hernandez K-8 School, a two-way bilingual school with instruction in both English and Spanish, has a proposed budget of $2.9 million. The Boston Teachers Union Pilot School, a K-8 school which opened this year and is starting with two kindergarten classes and one sixth-grade class, has a proposed budget of $1.8 million.
Regardless of whether it closes any schools in the coming year, BPS plans to take steps to deal deliberately with excess capacity next year, according to information from a March 11 BPS budget hearing at English High School.
Any school closings will be done “in a thoughtful and considerate manner and process,” Wilder told the Gazette.
School closures can be very disruptive, he said.