Over the objection of students, teachers, and parents, the Boston School Committee has voted to close two high schools over the next two years.
The Boston Globe reports that the committee voted 5-0 in favor of closing Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, which collectively serve 680 students.
Deteriorating building conditions at the campus shared by the two schools are forcing their closures, school officials say. Problems include a crumbling facade and a leaky roof that has caused extensive water damage to the ceiling tiles and floors and may have compromised the electrical system.
But students, teachers, and parents have accused school officials of exaggerating the building problems in an effort to cut spending. They warn that the trauma of the closures will cause lifelong harm to some of the city’s most vulnerable students: Urban Science Academy has a special program for students on the autism spectrum, and nearly a third of West Roxbury Academy’s students don’t speak English fluently.
Under the proposal crafted by interim Superintendent Laura Perille, the West Roxbury campus would close in June, but the two high schools would remain open for another year at another site — sharing space with the Irving Middle School.
However, the two high schools would educate only the rising seniors. Officials hope the arrangement will prevent any disruptions to their college application processes and other senior year activities and coursework.
All other students would transfer to different high schools.
Officials also plan to keep together some of the affected students, such as those in programs for autistic students, when they are moved to other high schools.
Perille says the school closure recommendations were difficult to make, but the building conditions left the school system with no other options. She also noted that both the schools had been struggling academically.
Opposition to the closings extend well beyond the students, teachers, and parents affected by the proposal. Many have called on the School Committee to halt all school closings until a long-term facilities plan is in place.
District officials have released a long-term facilities proposal, but the School Committee has yet to vote on it. That proposal calls for eliminating all middle schools, adding seventh and eighth grades to several academically struggling high schools, adding sixth grades to many elementary schools, an unspecified number of school mergers, and building or reconstructing about a dozen schools.