BOSTON — Boston Public Schools (BPS) Interim Superintendent Laura Perille announced the beginning of a community planning and engagement process around significant updates to BuildBPS, the district’s 10-year education and facilities master plan, which calls for additional school grade reconfigurations and expansions, and construction of new school buildings.
The primary goals of BuildBPS include modernizing school facilities; minimizing school transitions for students by 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 of 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 other populations.
“Modernizing our school facilities and updating our grade configurations in a way that ensures smooth transitions for students and works well for families is one of our top priorities,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has committed $1 billion to BuildBPS. “Taken together, these proposals get to the heart of our plan to expand high-quality school options in neighborhoods across our city. I look forward to our work ahead in partnership with the community to bring this vision to life.”
Through an analysis as part of the BuildBPS process over the past three years, BPS and the City of Boston have examined school enrollment patterns; school facility layouts and capacity; how to provide the most equitable access to quality programming for students of all backgrounds and needs; and, feedback from members of the community, among many other factors.
The community planning and engagement process will solicit community involvement in the following updates:
• A newly redesigned school serving grades 7-12 at the site of the current McCormack Middle School on Columbia Point in Dorchester. Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA), a high school in Hyde Park, has been selected to combine programming with the McCormack to form a fully-renovated, new school to open in fall 2022, which keeps intact specialized programs, including those for English learners and students with disabilities. BCLA was selected as the McCormack partner through an open-application process designed collaboratively by educators from the McCormack and BPS Central Office staff. The Irving Middle School will be used to temporarily relocate McCormack students from 2020-2022. Community engagement is planned for the next two years.
• Expanding 17 elementary schools from serving grades K-5 to K-6, which includes five schools in South Boston and Dorchester in September 2020 (Dever, Perkins, Tynan, Everett, Clap; the expansion of these particular schools would support the successful transformation of the McCormack); six schools citywide in September 2020 (Channing in Hyde Park, Conley in Roslindale, Hale in Roxbury, Manning in Jamaica Plain, Harvard-Kent in Charlestown, Mattahunt in Mattapan*); and six East Boston schools in September 2021 (Adams, Bradley, Guild, Otis, P.J. Kennedy, O’Donnell).
• *The Mattahunt will continue to expand one grade level per year until the school has a sixth grade in September 2022.
• Expanding middle-grade seat capacity in East Boston through the expansions mentioned above, along with exploring expansions of middle-grade seats at East Boston High School while maintaining options at the Umana and McKay K-8 schools.
• Purchase of property at 189 Paris Street in East Boston to construct a new school building to serve elementary grades.
• Beginning a two-year 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, working with all school communities in the area.
• The planned construction of a new Josiah Quincy Upper School through the purchase of property at 249 Harrison Avenue in Chinatown.
• Continuing a two-year planning and engagement process for schools in Allston-Brighton to address facilities challenges at the Jackson/Mann and Horace Mann schools.
• 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.
• Continue working with Grove Hall Alliance school communities, a network of five schools in the Grove Hall neighborhood (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.
Letters to BPS students, staff, and families with more details on how these updates will affect them are being distributed Tuesday. A community memo providing a full overview of these updates is available online at bostonpublicschools.org/buildbps.
East Boston and Charlestown
The proposals for schools in East Boston and Charlestown would directly address issues facing both communities, whose school enrollment patterns are intertwined: a lack of pre-K and elementary seats in Charlestown, and a lack of elementary- and middle-grade seats in East Boston. On May 15, the City of Boston authorized the purchase of 189 Paris Street in East Boston for $3.8 million to construct a new school building to serve elementary grades. Additionally, BPS will expand grade 6 seats at existing elementary schools in East Boston while seeking additional middle-grade seats at East Boston High School. Meanwhile, the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown would be reconfigured to serve pre-K and elementary grades. Enrollment at the district’s few remaining standalone middle schools, including the Edwards, has decreased steadily and all are encountering sustainability issues.
“The Boston Public Schools is taking a major step toward addressing the needs of students and families in East Boston,” said State Representative Adrian Madaro of East Boston. “I share the goals of the Mayor, BPS, and East Boston residents of increasing access to pre-K and decreasing transitions for children and families. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to create clear school pathways in East Boston from pre-K through grade 12 as soon as possible.”
McCormack and BCLA
The proposal to combine BCLA and McCormack is in response to collaborative discussions between BPS and the McCormack community that began last fall, when BPS first announced plans to reconfigure the McCormack as a grade 7-12 school. BPS solicited feedback from district high schools wishing to expand from 9-12 to 7-12 in a modernized space, which has resulted in current McCormack staff co-planning the process with BCLA and BPS staff. BCLA is currently located in Hyde Park in a shared space with New Mission High School.
McCormack Middle School Principal Elvis Henriquez said BPS officials have worked collaboratively with his school community over the past several months.
“We have really appreciated the collaboration between our school community and the BPS Central Office, which has taken a lot of our feedback into account,” Henriquez said. “We have a major opportunity to continue this positive collaboration, and to create a new school that could transform the grade 7-12 experience for students of all backgrounds.”
Joseph Berger, Dean of the College of Education for the University of Massachusetts Boston, worked as an advisor with McCormack community members as they began the planning process with BPS.
“This is an engaging, collaborative, and inclusive process, which allows the McCormack and BCLA communities a way to create a strong partnership,” Berger said. “Their voices are front and center at determining how this is going to work. At UMass Boston, we’re excited to be supportive of our neighbors, and look forward to forming strong college- and career-partnerships with students at the future school.”
Schools Expanding from K-5 to K-6
The expansion of 17 elementary schools from K-5 to K-6 is the result of BPS collaborating with elementary schools in the past year. In January, BPS provided criteria to K-5 school site councils for schools wishing to expand to K-6, which included a guarantee to accommodate all general education and specialized student populations. The Mattahunt Elementary School, which re-opened in 2017 as a school serving grades K0-1 with the goal of increasing one grade level per year, will formalize its plan to increase by one grade every year until September 2022, when it reaches a sixth-grade class.
“These proposals will help BPS add classroom seats in areas of the city where they’re most needed, and build up sustainable school models to best serve families in more neighborhoods in Boston,” Perille said. “With this highly important work ahead, it’s essential we lay a solid foundation for robust and thoughtful planning and engagement with our school communities.”
This month, the Boston School Committee named Dr. Brenda Cassellius, the former education commissioner of Minnesota, the next BPS superintendent beginning July 1. Cassellius said she is committed to take on the important BuildBPS initiative.
“Making sure our schools have long-term, sustainable learning spaces and programming is critically important to closing opportunity and achievement gaps, and is responsive to the needs of students and families,” Cassellius said. “BuildBPS offers an incredible opportunity to achieve a goal of having high quality schools in every neighborhood. I am proud of the commitments already made and look forward to engaging with the entire BPS family soon to continue this important strategic work in ensuring an equitable and excellent school for every BPS student.”
Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto is hopeful that the large-scale proposal will lead to positive outcomes for students and families.
“The Boston School Committee is thankful for the level of thought, care, and planning that has gone into developing these broad and substantive BuildBPS proposals, which reduce transitions and move us toward a system that will better serve our families,” Loconto said. “These improvements demonstrate that students and families are always at the center of the district’s BuildBPS efforts.”
Robert Jenkins, a member of the Community Engagement Advisory Council (CEAC), a community advisory group for the BuildBPS process, said the updates account for viewpoints from across the district.
“The needs of every neighborhood are different, and I’m pleased BPS is making an effort to meet the needs of all neighborhoods,” said Jenkins said. “BPS has included the Community Engagement Advisory Council in ensuring this process brings in views from across the city. The inclusion of CEAC shows transparency and underscores that it takes a village to make sure all of our students are well served.”
For updates on the BuildBPS process, please visit bostonpublicschools.org/buildbps.
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