By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
In 2015, we launched BuildBPS, a 10-year educational and facilities master plan that reflects a $1 billion commitment to our students. This plan is a promise to our young people that their schools will be equipped with the facilities, tools, and curriculum they need to succeed in today’s world. We have said many times that making sure our students have the best learning facilities available to them is a priority, and today we’re taking the next step to fulfill that promise: a planning and engagement process for school expansions and reconfigurations.
The majority of Boston’s public schools were constructed before World War II, and many lack modern educational spaces like music and technology classrooms. There are also several different grade configurations, meaning that many students change schools several times before graduating from high school. We want to simplify things for families by offering single-transition pathways. Families have also told us that they want to see more K-6 schools in their neighborhoods, and this next step in the plan provides an opportunity to meet that need as well.
The Boston Public Schools (BPS) recently announced updates to the BuildBPS plan. These include: modernizing school facilities; adopting two preferred grade configuration models of K-6/7-12 and K-8/9-12; increasing access to classroom seats in neighborhoods with the most need; addressing declining enrollment and sustainability in the few remaining middle schools serving grades 6-8; and facilitating greater equity of program placement to meet the needs of students with disabilities, English learners, and more.
Ensuring smooth transitions for students and families is a top priority and critical to expanding high-quality school options in all neighborhoods across our city. After years of analyzing school enrollment patterns and facility layouts and capacity, we are now asking for the community to get involved in the process by providing feedback to the following updates:
• A new 7-12 school at the site of the current McCormack Middle School on Columbia Point in Dorchester, which will combine programming with the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) in Hyde Park. This new, fully-renovated school will open in the fall of 2022 and will keep specialized programs from both schools, including those for English learners and students with disabilities.
• Expanding 17 elementary schools from grades K-5 to K-6, which includes five schools in South Boston and Dorchester in September 2020 (Dever, Perkins, Tynan, Everett, Clap); six schools citywide in September 2020; and six East Boston schools in September 2021.
• Expanding middle-grade seat capacity in East Boston through possible expansion at East Boston High School while maintaining options at the Umana and McKay K-8 schools.
• Purchasing property at 189 Paris Street in East Boston to construct a new school building to serve elementary grades, and at 249 Harrison Avenue in Chinatown for a new Josiah Quincy Upper School.
• Continuing to seek property near the Dorchester-Mattapan line to construct a new school building to address the need for elementary seats in the area.
• Beginning a planning and engagement process leading to the reconfiguration of the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, phasing out the grade 6-8 middle school in June 2021, and reconfiguring the school to expand pre-K and elementary grade capacity.
• Continuing a planning and engagement process for schools in Allston-Brighton to address facilities challenges at the Jackson/Mann and Horace Mann schools.
• Continue working with Grove Hall Alliance school communities (Burke High, Frederick Middle, Trotter K-8, King K-8, and Haynes Early Education Center) to review feeder patterns for the potential creation of a pathway for students.
All of these proposals advance the values of BuildBPS by ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality, 21st-century public education. Throughout this process, we’ll rely on the input of residents and BPS families. BPS will keep providing updates at bostonpublicschools.org/buildbps with more details on how the plan will affect them. I look forward to working with the community on these exciting changes.
Martin J. Walsh is Mayor of the City of Boston.