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Boston Public Schools Proposes Next Steps on BuildBPS Educational and Facilities Master Plan

On Wednesday, October 16, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) released the proposed second phase of the BuildBPS educational and facilities master plan, which includes recommendations for the construction, renovation or major transformation of 12 schools, to be completed or in progress by 2027.

The 10-year, $1 billion investment is the city’s first long-term strategic plan for schools in more than 40 years, and puts students at the heart of its proposals. BuildBPS works to design 21st-century classrooms for all schools, ensuring every student has the opportunity to achieve their full potential. BuildBPS also provides a strategic framework for facilities investments, as well as improvements that are aligned with the school district’s commitment to fostering exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative schools.

"There's nothing more important in Boston than making sure each and every one of our 57,000 students in the Boston Public Schools receives an education that sets them up for success,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “BuildBPS is an opportunity to invest in school buildings that will deliver high-quality learning environments for our students for generations to come. In order to achieve our goals, we need to think big and work together to build a bright future for our schools."   

The proposed second phase of the BuildBPS plan 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.

The guiding principles of the plan include those factors, along with addressing enrollment challenges to meet student needs, and creating equitable access to programming for vulnerable populations. The second phase builds off the work outlined in the first comprehensive BuildBPS report, released in March 2017, which offered a comprehensive scope of the school building conditions, including that 65 percent of Boston’s 125 schools were built before World War II, and how to bring these school buildings into the 21st century.

“This promising next phase of the BuildBPS plan comes amid steady progress on district facilities, with the recent re-opening of the Dearborn STEM Academy and just this week breaking ground on the new Boston Arts Academy,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “This is an exciting time for parents and students in BPS, as the district shares concrete plans to reduce school transitions and create a more consistent and approachable system that supports all learners in all neighborhoods.”

A fundamental goal of BuildBPS is to increase opportunities for students to change schools only once during their grade K-12 experience, which would include grade configurations of either K-6/7-12 and K-8/9-12. Many families have shared a preference for fewer school transitions, which is shown to improve student achievement and post-graduation success.

To create more single-transition pathways, BPS plans to reconfigure the grades of up to 20 schools to serve grades K-6, and will reconfigure seven schools to serve grades 6-12 or 7-12. It should be noted that BPS remains committed to preserving existing strong schools that are currently serving grades K-8 and 9-12 in order to maintain a variety of choices for families.

In addition to the expansions and reconfigurations mentioned, BPS leadership is recommending the closure of West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy, two grade 9-12 high schools that are both housed in the West Roxbury Education Complex. The advised closure of the schools is due to multiple factors, including substantial critical and immediate facility issues, declining enrollment, and longstanding academic performance challenges. BPS will provide extensive support and assistance to all student relocating to other schools, and to the schools receiving those students. Teachers will also receive support to transition into new roles.

Staff will be onsite at West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy this fall to help students transition to a range of existing high schools. This will include assignment preferences for these students, personal assistance with applications to special admission high schools, and additional resources for schools receiving students.

Another key focus of the educational and facilities master plan is to create more equitable program placement, targeted support, and learning opportunities for the district’s most vulnerable students, including students with disabilities and English Learners. Both West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy have a number of specialized programs for students with significant needs. The district will prioritize placement of these programs and students in other high schools, and will provide the appropriate additional resources as needed.

The facilities plan also includes closing the John W. McCormack Middle School in Columbia Point, Dorchester, in June 2020, renovating the building, and converting it into a campus serving students in grades 7-12. During the McCormack remodel, nearby Excel High School in South Boston will expand to serve grades 7-12. Renovations during the summers of 2019 or 2020 will upgrade the existing Excel building so that it can remain a 7-12 option for students once the new McCormack 7-12 school is renovated.

“We are first and foremost working to provide equitable access to quality schools to more students, with clear, direct educational pathways to succeed,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “As a longtime educational advocate in Boston and former BPS parent, I know the profound impact this school system can have on the quality of life for the children, young adults, and all residents of our great city. Boston Public Schools are committed to offering the support all students, families and school leaders need as we together make the decisions needed to move all students forward. I look forward to continuing the citywide engagement process in the coming weeks as we move forward with the next phase of the BuildBPS master plan with as much community input as possible.”

As part of the BuildBPS plan, the district is sharing plans of a citywide community engagement initiative, featuring school-based meetings with families, staff, School Parent Councils and School Site Councils. Community engagement will also include outreach and discussions with community and faith-based organizations, as well as parent advisory councils. BPS welcomes all members of the Boston community to participate in neighborhood discussions and town hall meetings, which will be announced shortly and will occur in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Community meetings will be publicized on a variety of channels to school communities, including on bostonpublicschools.orgView a list of community meetings here. 

Meetings were held with staff and families from West Roxbury and Urban Science, and with McCormack staff, on Tuesday. Additional meetings with students and families are scheduled for next week.

This second phase of BuildBPS comes after Mayor Walsh has invested more than $200 million in the construction of new buildings, including the Dearborn 6-12 STEM Early College Academy in Roxbury, and the Boston Arts Academy in the Fenway, which broke ground on Tuesday, October 16, for a state-of-the-art, 153,500-square-foot building.

The district is also moving forward with plans for new facilities for the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown and the William E. Carter School in the South End. Both projects  are in the process of receiving funds from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

These projects are in addition to the the continued expansion of the John Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End. BPS and the City of Boston have also earmarked $42.5 million for capital improvements to schools across the district, including providing modern furniture, upgrading playgrounds and bringing locker rooms into Title IX compliance.