BPS back to school-zone drawing board

David Taber

Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials will begin redrawing the city’s school zones next month and release a plan late next year, BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder told the Gazette.

“We are really hoping to engage the community in the next 15 to 18 months,” Wilder said. “We realized we really want to have the community help us shape this work.”

A series of community meetings in different Boston neighborhoods will begin in May, Wilder said. BPS will use the input it gets from those meetings to put together alternative proposals that it will present next year. BPS hopes to have a plan in place in time for the 2013 school year, he said.

In 2009, BPS proposed to redraw its three large school zones into five smaller zones to save on transportation costs. The initial version of that plan was widely criticized because it did not provide enough middle-school seats for the proposed zone that included Jamaica Plain. A second 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.

In the wake of that failed proposal, school officials last year said they were going to conduct a community process to develop a new school zone plan in conjunction with last year’s school closure process.

But the re-zoning part was delayed. A new school zone proposal was slated to be unveiled early this year, but that also did not happen.

While the re-zoning process has so far defied deadlines, there is a hard zero-hour looming in a few years: BPS’s busing contract with transportation company First Student expires in 2014. One of the main goals of the re-zoning process is for BPS to save on transportation costs.

Wilder said BPS also plans to discuss plans to its cumbersome student enrollment system during the process, and will likely have at least some improvements in place in time for the upcoming school year. BPS hopes the process will have “less paperwork, fewer hurdles [and] better customer service,” BPS says.

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