FAQ: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Revised November 2018
1. What is BuildBPS?
Launched in September 2015 by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BuildBPS is a 10-year educational and facilities master plan for Boston Public Schools (BPS). The first phase of the plan, released in March 2017, provides a strategic framework for aligning BPS construction and renovation projects with the district’s educational priorities, supported by a $1 billion investment over the next decade. It is designed to guide investments to ensure that the school district’s facilities are equipped for innovative changes taking place in learning and instruction.
The second phase of BuildBPS was announced by Interim Superintendent Laura Perille in October 2018. The second phase includes specific proposals for numerous BPS schools — based on the plan’s guiding principles — with the intention of engaging the community for feedback over the next several months and years.
The BuildBPS guiding principles are:
- Expanding access to quality learning environments for more students
- Addressing enrollment challenges to meet student needs
- Locating new or expanded buildings in neighborhoods with high student need and low current access
- Creating more equitable program placement and learning opportunities for our students with high needs, including students with disabilities and English learners
- Reducing the number of times students change schools during their pre-K-12 experience
2. Why are the City and BPS engaging in a master planning process for school facilities, and what issues are being addressed?
A facilities master planning process was among the recommendations presented in 2014 by the Education Working Group of Mayor Walsh’s Transition Committee.
With nearly two-thirds of Boston Public Schools’ 132 buildings constructed before World War II, many of them can no longer support today’s innovative educational approaches. The facility needs for modernization and repair often exceed the resources available to address them, so the City and the school district has made difficult decisions every year about how to prioritize competing capital needs. BuildBPS provides a long-range roadmap for construction and renovation projects, allowing the City and BPS to become proactive in planning and financing projects that advance the school district’s goals to improve student achievement. Additionally, BPS seeks to fix enrollment and programming inequities throughout the city; as well as provide clear school pathways for students that include fewer school transitions.
There are eight key facts providing a basis for the BuildBPS plan:
- There are not enough elementary seats to serve students close to home in the southern half of the city.
- There are limited options for expanding special education, English learner and K1 (pre-K) programs.
- English learner and special education programs are not evenly distributed across district high schools.
- Enrollment in the six middle schools has declined by roughly 1,800 students from 2012-2018.
- K-8 schools experience a high level of student turnover and many are under-enrolled in grades 7 and 8. This limits the district’s ability to provide a consistent, rigorous, and resource-rich experience for students in those grades.
- The current grade configurations lead to multiple school transitions for many of our students.
- On a per pupil basis, small schools cost more and have less diversity of programming than larger schools.
- Roughly 50% of current K-5 elementary schools are too small to house a K-6 school with more than 1 class per grade
3. What specifically is proposed in Phase II?
In October 2018, Interim Superintendent Perille presented to the Boston School Committee the Phase II plan of BuildBPS, which marks the first long-term strategic plan for BPS facilities and educational vision in more than 40 years. BuildBPS Phase II aims to expand equitable access to quality schools and programs, while also reducing the number of times students transition into different schools, which create more stable and predictable pathways for students and families.
To do this, the plan proposes:
- The construction, renovation or major transformation of 12 schools, to be completed or in progress by 2027.
- New or expanded buildings in neighborhoods with high student need and low current access.
- Increased investments district-wide for all school buildings and communities.
- Predictable and transparent building and capital planning process that will allow the district to continue opening new school buildings or significantly renovating existing schools every 1-2 years after 2027.
- Reducing the number of times students transition from one school to another by creating more foreseeable school feeder patterns; this means adopting a grade configuration system that is primarily grades K-6/7-12 or K-8/9-12.
- Create more sustainable and equitable programming by addressing areas where enrollment is declining. This includes phasing out BPS’s six remaining middle schools that serve grades 6-8 over the next several years, beginning with the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester in June 2020. The standalone middle schools have suffered significant enrollment declines over the last several years.
- Addressing an emergency facilities issue at the West Roxbury Education Complex, which will result in the closure of the two high schools housed in the complex, West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy, in June 2019. BPS would like to build a new school serving grades 7-12 at this location.
4. Are there opportunities for community feedback?
Yes. A crucial part of BuildBPS is a robust community engagement process across the City of Boston to provide information and collect feedback on the BuildBPS proposals, which include new construction, major renovations, and transformation of schools, as well as fewer school transitions for students and critical facilities repairs. Community meetings will take place over the next several months and years. Visit the BuildBPS Community Engagement page for a list of meeting dates and locations.
5. What work has been conducted through the BuildBPS process so far?
Prior to the release of Phase II, Boston Public Schools and the City of Boston engaged in several facilities-related projects as part of BuildBPS.
Those projects included:
- Ground-breaking in October 2018 on a new facility for Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only public performing arts high school, in the Fenway;
- The opening of the new Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury in August 2018;
- The ongoing expansion of the Eliot K-8 School in the North End;
- The 2018 expansion of the My Way Cafe food-service program at schools in East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury;
- Ordering 56,000 items of new classroom furniture for every BPS school as part of a $13 million allocation from the BuildBPS 21st Century Schools Fund. The furniture was delivered to schools throughout 2018 and is intended to be flexible to encourage collaboration and innovation in learning. Examples include ergonomic chairs, adjustable desks, and portable teacher lecterns.
- Additionally, since 2017, the City and BPS have spent more than $45 million to carry out major system repairs of school buildings through BuildBPS, including replacing 3,000 windows, and repairing roofs and boilers at six schools, with an additional $15 million worth of roof, boiler, and window repairs at six additional schools beginning in 2018-19.
6. Is the City partnering with the state to seek funding for any of these projects?
Yes. Since 2014, Mayor Walsh and BPS have secured more than $110 million in funds from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to support new school buildings and facility renovations, which includes $30 million from the MSBA Accelerated Repair Program to fund for new boilers, windows, and roofs in school buildings across the City; $48 million from MSBA for the $125 million Boston Arts Academy project; and $37 million from MSBA for the $73 million Dearborn STEM Academy. This year, BPS and the City plan to seek additional MSBA funds for new boilers, windows, and roofs at seven BPS schools as part of the 2018 MSBA Accelerated Repair Program. In fact, since 2015, the City of Boston has made a concerted effort to leverage MSBA funds more. Over that period, the City has launched $252 million in MSBA-eligible projects, for which we’ve received $117.9 million in MSBA reimbursements. The amount of MSBA dollars accessed in 2018 exceeds the total external funds acquired in the three years dating back from 2012 to 2014.
7. When will the next BuildBPS report be available?
Currently, you can view the overview of the BuildBPS Phase II plan, which was presented to the Boston School Committee on October 17, 2018. A lengthier, in-depth BuildBPS Phase II report will be publicly released in the near future, and posted to bostonpublicschools.org/buildbps. The report will detail how BuildBPS addresses school enrollment and programming needs in each neighborhood of Boston, and has more information about the overall goals of the master plan.
For more information about BuildBPS…
- Visit the BuildBPS pages of the district website.
- Participate in community engagement events.
- Sign up to receive periodic e-news.
- Contribute to the conversation on Twitter using #BuildBPS.
- Review documents in the public Google Drive.