BPS still planning school zone changes

David Taber

Boston Public Schools officials, in the midst of a controversial public review of their proposal to close and consolidate some schools, are holding off on presenting a new proposal for redrawing city school zones until early next year, BPS Spokesperson Matt Wilder told the Gazette last month.

BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson is working on a proposal—to be presented in December—that could mean the closure of over a half-dozen schools, launch at least two new schools, and expand programming at other schools. None of the schools discussed in the process to date are in Jamaica Plain.

The proposed school closures have been particularly contentious. “We have heard from a lot of very vocal and passionate parents” at public forums and through public comments. “They are invested. They care about what is going on,” Wilder told the Gazette.

Last spring when BPS announced the “Redesign and Reinvest” closure and expansion planning process, BPS officials said they would also, concurrently, take another stab at redrawing its school zones.

In 2009, BPS proposed to redraw its three large school zones into five smaller zones to save on transportation costs. One version of that ultimately failed plan included a controversial proposal to turn Egleston Square’s Rafael Hernández School—a unique K-8 school where students are taught both in English and Spanish—from a citywide school to a district school.

BPS officials still plan to present a new school-zone proposal, Wilder said, but, “We need to know what the district looks like before we tackle student assignment,” he said.

“Student assignment” refers to Boston’s complicated system for enrolling students. It involves two layers of school zones and a lottery. The two zones are the traditional zones that demarcate what schools students can apply to, and the “walk zone” system where students are given priority for seating at any school within a mile of their house whether they reside in the same zone as the school or not.

BPS this year received a $250,000 federal grant to develop its new student assignment plan.

“We will be looking at changes in the winter and spring. Any changes will happen in the fall of 2012 at the earliest,” Wilder said of the new student assignment plan.

For up-to-date information about the closure and expansion plan, see www.bostonpublicschools.org/redesign.

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