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Boston Public Schools Releases BuildBPS Phase II Educational and Facilities Master Plan Report

On Wednesday, November 28, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Interim Superintendent Laura Perille publicly released the Phase II report of the $1 billion BuildBPS 10-year educational and facilities master plan — the district’s first long-term strategic plan for facilities in more than 40 years.

 

The report provides an overview of student demographics and school facilities within each neighborhood in the City of Boston, along with detailed data outlining factors behind the plan. The purpose of the narrative report is to support ongoing community engagement and dialogue with school communities in the months ahead.

 

The report can be found online at bostonpublicschools.org/buildbps.

 

"BuildBPS is an opportunity to invest in school buildings that will deliver high-quality learning environments to ensure our students receive the education and opportunities they need to be successful," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Together with the Boston Public Schools, we will continue our work to create equitable, high-quality schools for all, investing in our students' futures for generations to come."

 

BPS outlined key aspects of BuildBPS Phase II in a presentation to the Boston School Committee in October, and has held numerous community meetings across the city since then. Additional meetings are ongoing and will continue well into 2019, given the multi-year nature of the plan.

 

In the report’s opening message, Interim Superintendent Perille said the proposed plan “encompasses stakeholders’ feedback, aspirations, and goals, along with the data and ideas needed to bring them to fruition.”

 

“Significant work has been done over the last three years to develop a plan that allows the district to strategically, equitably, and responsibly transform its facilities landscape to benefit our students,” Perille said. “Thanks to the commitment of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and leadership from the Boston School Committee, BuildBPS represents an important leap and historic opportunity to provide 21st-century learning environments for BPS students.”

 

"This BuildBPS report is a major step toward addressing the district's long-term facilities and educational needs in a manner that is strategic and thoughtful," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. "The School Committee looks forward to reviewing the full report and listening to feedback from the community as we continue engaging in this process."

 

The BuildBPS plan calls for new construction or major transformation projects of 12 schools launched or completed by 2027. This includes four new construction projects that are currently ongoing or pending: the Carter School in the South End, Quincy Upper School in Chinatown, Boston Arts Academy in Fenway, and the Eliot K-8 School in the North End. BPS has also expressed interest in constructing a new secondary school at the current location of the West Roxbury Education Complex, along with four other new school buildings across the district. Lastly, three of the district’s middle schools are likely to receive major renovations in the next ten years in order to transition to serving different grade-spans.

 

All BPS middle schools will be reconfigured, shifting from the current model serving grades 6-8 and in keeping with the district’s plans for more schools to fit within a K-6, 7-12 or K-8/9-12 pattern. This would support a guiding principle of the plan, which is to reduce the number of times students transition between schools. This approach of phasing out middle schools is reinforced by the schools’ declining enrollment in recent years and concerns over their program sustainability.

 

The BuildBPS report also outlines the need for new or expanded buildings in neighborhoods where the number of classroom seats do not currently meet demand; increased investments in maintenance; and a predictable and transparent building and capital planning process that will allow the district to continue opening new school buildings or conducting major renovations every 1-2 years beyond 2027.

 

Another guiding principle aims to ensure high quality learning environments for all students to close opportunity and achievement gaps for all learners. This calls for new and expanded buildings to prioritize space and specialized programs for students with special needs and English learners.

 

In addition to information about each neighborhood in Boston, the BuildBPS Phase II report contains the district’s long-term goals, educational vision, community engagement plan, information about fiscal planning and recent BuildBPS investments, and a fact base that is guiding the district’s planning.

 

The eight facts guiding the plan are:

 

  • There are not enough elementary seats to serve students close to home in the southern half of the city;
  • There are currently limited options for expanding special education, English learner, or K1 programs.
  • English learner and special needs programs are not currently evenly distributed across the district’s high schools.
  • Enrollment in the six middle schools has declined by about 1,800 students over the past six years.
  • Schools serving grades K-8 experience a high level of turnover and are under-enrolled in grades 7 and 8. This limits the district’s ability to provide consistent, rigorous, and resource-rich experiences for students in those grades.
  • The current grade configurations lead to multiple school transitions for many 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 one class per grade.

 

BuildBPS is addressing long-standing issues with deferred maintenance, beginning with critical facility issues at the West Roxbury Education Complex, which houses two high schools: West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy. BPS is proposing to close the schools at the end of the current school year due to multiple factors, including substantial critical and immediate facility issues and declining enrollment. In order to maximize the investments the building requires and adequately provide 21st century learning environments, BPS proposes to completely rebuild and reopen the school to serve grades 7-12 or 9-12. This proposal to close the complex is currently pending approval from the Boston School Committee in December 2018.

 

BPS has also proposed transitioning the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, as the first of the stand-alone middle schools to be reconfigured. This means closing the school in June of 2020 before conducting extensive renovations and re-opening the school to serve grades 7-12. BPS is currently working with McCormack staff on details of the proposed transition, which is also pending School Committee approval in late winter or early spring of 2019.