Why the rush to close middle schools?
The current BPS school administration seems to be in a big hurry to get the School Committee on record in favor of its number one priority in BuildBPS: closing all middle schools.
There has been no chance for community discussion of the pros and cons of middle schools. Superintendent-elect Brenda Cassellius, who happens to be a middle school expert, has not had an opportunity to study the Boston situation and make her own proposals.
Why the rush?
And why get our compliant School Committee to take a vote on a general principle without any clear picture of what implementation might look like? The last time that happened was last year’s vote on the principles behind start time changes, and we all saw how well that worked out. BPS continues to miss opportunities to create authentic community engagement in which students, families and the community share in finding solutions to the district’s major problems.
At the most recent school committee meeting, BPS administrators began a new cycle of rushed decision-making. BPS administrators presented several slides about current school configurations then responded to School Committee questions with vague answers. Until this point, BPS had begun to move forward on BuildBPS, never having School Committee officially taken a vote to dissolve middle schools or even sharing a long-term presentation of BuildBPS.
As BPS peddles the rationale of “right sizing” the district and reducing student transitions, the ramifications of closing middle schools would affect black and Latino students at higher rates because middle schools are majority black and Latino students. There has been no scenario planning of feeder patterns between schools or an equity analysis of this decision. Because of weighted student funding, where a school receives a budget based on their enrollment, schools will experience declining resources either because BPS moves them to closure or because the feeder school from which they used to receive has closed.
The BuildBPS plan does not answer fundamental questions: What are the long-term plans for the schools of my children, and the children across our city? How will the recommendations of the plan affect current students and communities? Yet, on June 12, the Boston School Committee will be asked to vote on the “idea” of a school reconfiguration model in which middle schools do not exist.
The Boston Education Justice Alliance (BEJA) continues to call for a moratorium on the BuildBPS process, until a real plan is presented not just to School Committee, but to BPS school communities. The portions of BuildBPS that have been shared lack the following:
- A 10-year timetable for facility maintenance, relocation, construction, and closure of our schools with swing space planning built in.
- An analysis to determine if plans are equitable by race, socio-economic status, neighborhood, disability, and linguistic groups.
- An impact analysis to understand the effects on students, families and neighborhoods in the city.
- A financial report, including estimated costs for rebuilds, relocations, maintenance, program expansion, swing space, etc.
- An educational plan regarding programs, grade configurations with school feeder patterns, extended learning time, student assignment, etc.
Shortly after BuildBPS was announced, district officials announced the closing of the two schools in the West Roxbury Education Complex. To add insult to injury, the School Committee then gave the Rogers school in Hyde Park over to the city for disposition, never asking for surplus space from the city for West Roxbury students.
BPS is making decisions under the false auspices of “right sizing.” Supposedly this is all for the benefit of students. But so far, BuildBPS has hurt some of the most vulnerable students in the city. This has to stop.
Dorchester resident Ruby Reyes is executive director of the Boston Education Justice Alliance.