BPS plans new schools, expanded elementaries
Schools to be built in Chinatown and East Boston
Two years ago, Mayor Martin Walsh released a 230-page document on his administration’s 10-year, $1 billion BuildBPS facilities master planning process, through which the city seeks to upgrade existing school buildings and construct new ones to meet the changing needs of the city’s students.
While the original document was short on specifics, the broad outlines of the document included calls for new buildings in communities such as Roxbury and Dorchester, where the number of students exceeds the number of seats available in schools, a call for grade reconfiguration to reduce the number of transitions students make between kindergarten and high school and renovations to align classroom design with current notions of what constitutes a modern learning environment.
This week, the public got a glance at the plans in action as BPS officials announced sweeping changes in several neighborhoods, including the closing of the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown and the merging of the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester with Boston Community Leadership Academy, which is currently housed in Hyde Park.
The changes, announced in a press release as well as in a letter to parents in affected communities, also outlined plans to turn 17 K-5 schools into K-6 schools and a search for property in the Dorchester/Mattapan area for a new elementary school building.
The reconfiguration of the McCormack and Edwards schools, along with the grade reconfigurations at the 17 elementary schools, are part of the district’s push to eliminate all middle schools and reduce the number of transitions students make during their K-12 education.
“Families can expect a single school transition during their student’s K-12 education if they so choose,” said Interim Superintendent Laura Perille, speaking during last week’s School Committee meeting.
Schools transitioning to the K-6 model include five in Dorchester and South Boston that formerly fed into the McCormack middle school, six in East Boston that formerly fed into the Edwards and another six citywide. BPS officials plan to transition all schools districtwide into K-6 or K-8 and 7-12 or 9-12 grade configurations.
BPS officials also announced that the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church has agreed to sell the district its property at the corner of Harrison Avenue and Marginal Road for $9.5 million. The school department will use the land for the construction of a new building for the Josiah Quincy Upper School. BPS officials hope to open the new school building, which will be adjacent to the current Josiah Quincy Elementary School, in 2023.
The McCormack and BCLA both have faced pressure from district officials in recent years. BCLA, which saw the loss of AP classes, SAT prep classes and other programs due to budget cuts, has also experienced encroachment by New Mission High School. The two schools share a Hyde Park building. As New Mission received district approval to add 7th and 8th grades, the school took classroom space from BCLA.
“We were told at the last minute that they would be expanding and would be taking some of our classrooms away,” said Ashley German, a BCLA student who spoke during last week’s School Committee meeting.
German told the Banner that class sizes grew after BLCA lost one floor to New Mission.
“My science class has 30 students,” she said. “My history class has 27, and we’re in a small classroom.”
To accommodate the merger of BCLA and the McCormack to form a 7-12 school, BPS officials will have to expand the existing McCormack school building, although the building recently installed a new roof with funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. BPS officials have not specified whether they will build up, build on the school’s parking lot or on an adjacent schoolyard that the district is seeking to sell off through the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. During the expected two-year renovation process, McCormack students will be relocated to space in the Irving Middle School.
German said she hopes students will have a voice as the changes proceed.
“Since this is going to be a school for students, student should be part of the decision-making process,” she said.