We are committed to ensuring that our school facilities meet the needs and aspirations of our students, educators, and families. This process includes our plans to build new schools, renovate others, and combine some school communities. This process also includes collaborative, inclusive planning. We are committed to genuine and authentic community engagement as we shape the future of our school communities, and you deserve to have a voice at the table throughout this process.
As you may already know, many of our school buildings are in dire need of improvement.
The Green New Deal for BPS is our shared commitment to expanding access to safe, healthy, energy-efficient, and inspiring learning spaces, with state-of-the-art classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums, and athletic, outdoor, meeting, and support spaces.
To achieve this, we must face some hard truths about the state of our facilities. From leaky ceilings to a lack of air conditioning, lackluster bathrooms, old boilers, and windows in need of retrofitting, most of our buildings are not meeting students' most basic needs.
In some buildings, our students are without access to cafeterias, science labs, gyms, auditoriums, or central gathering spaces. Our incredible Facilities team works tirelessly to keep our facilities clean and safe. Still, the reality is that half of our buildings were built before World War II and are in need of major upgrades. Roughly 50% of BPS schools serving elementary students are too small to house a school with more than one classroom in every grade. Some of our facilities, in their current state, are not suitable to support the academic vision we have for our students or fully meet their physical and socioemotional needs. We want our schools to be able to build strong communities and serve as hubs within our neighborhoods. Better facilities will help make this a reality.
BPS enrollment is declining. Since 2010, the number of students across our 125 school buildings has decreased from 56,000 to nearly 49,000. BPS must respond to declining enrollment by directing its resources to school buildings that can accommodate a variety of academic programs and house the types of classrooms and learning spaces that our students deserve. Continuing to direct resources to schools that, due to structural and spatial limitations, cannot provide students with adequate classrooms or learning spaces disproportionately impacts academic instruction and enrichment opportunities in the schools attended by our most vulnerable students. This is a matter of equity. In order to deliver quality facilities to our students, we need a district-wide strategy that includes four potential pathways:
- Building New Schools across every neighborhood, designed to host multiple current school communities in state-of-the-art facilities.
- Major Renovations at current school buildings that are in need of repair, but do not need to be completely torn down.
- Grade Reconfigurations to create one-time transitions and predictable pathways from grades PreK-6 to 7-12.
- Combining Small Schools to facilitate building upgrades and combine resources to reinvest in schools, expand enrichment opportunities, and produce stronger student outcomes
We share a commitment to delivering an inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education for all our students—especially those traditionally marginalized, including our Black and Brown students, students with disabilities, and multilingual learners. As we work toward a long-term facilities plan, we firmly believe that combining school communities—in new or updated facilities, wherever possible—will provide us with a path forward to improve students' academic experience. This would allow us to deploy full-time specialists, offer educators’ robust collaboration opportunities, and improve academic programming and enrichment opportunities.
BPS is long overdue for a long-term facilities plan, with a clear timeline and a budget for upgrading schools across the entire district. We’ve already begun by:
- Committing to open and transparent data sharing: Our Building Dashboard shows data from the 2022 School Year Opportunity Index with information on each school building's facilities and environmental conditions. This tutorial video provides a guide on how to navigate the platform.
- Investing in a facilities condition assessment: We have engaged experts who will provide us with an assessment of all our facilities that will make recommendations for repair, replacement, and renovation in our buildings.
- Prioritizing quality educational and building standards: We are also working with an architecture design firm to complete a School Design Study, a set of programming and design recommendations for all BPS PreK-6 and 7-12 schools. This will guide future renovations and construction, informed by authentic engagement with community members moving forward. These design standards will enable us to complete new construction and renovation projects more quickly in the future. We will share more information on a public kick-off for this engagement later this fall.
- Launching more than a dozen new major projects: We have committed immediate funds to launch major new construction and renovation projects that touch more than 20 school communities and continue district-wide initiatives to advance environmental justice and educational opportunity. Read more about the projects at this link.
These assessment tools are expected to be completed by fall of 2023 and will build the foundation for a long-term facilities plan that incorporates everyone's perspectives. As we complete these important foundational tools, there is work we can and must do more immediately. There is urgency in creating the spaces our students deserve and it's especially important that we hear your thoughts about the future of your school community. Please email us at email@example.com to help us better understand how to envision the future of our neighborhood schools.