Boston school officials say they have reached significant milestones in their effort to deal with aging buildings and adjust to changing enrollment — they have bought a site in East Boston for a school, finalized a land deal in Chinatown for another school, and approved plans for 17 elementary schools to add sixth grade.
The Boston Globe reports that Interim Superintendent Laura Perille calls the developments “an exciting and pivotal moment” for the school system’s long-term facilities plan known as BuildBPS.
“The story of BuildBPS is always about balancing citywide needs with the inspirations of individual schools in particular neighborhoods,” she says.
In another change, McCormack Middle School will merge with Boston Community Leadership Academy, and that will accelerate the closing of the Edwards Middle School. The district is phasing out middle schools.
The two land purchases address a shortage of classrooms in East Boston and jumpstart an effort to construct a new building for the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown.
The new East Boston school site has been acquired for $3.8 million. A former school building on that site will be razed.
The Quincy Upper School will get a new building on what is now the site of the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, which the city is purchasing for $9.5 million.
Quincy Upper has struggled for more than a decade to find a location in the Chinatown area, where available property is hard to come by and the school district has faced stiff competition from private developers.
The wait has come at a price, Chang said. Most science classes don’t have access to functioning labs, forcing students to watch YouTube videos to simulate lab experiments. The school also lacks space for a library, gym, and arts programs, forcing instrumental students to practice in hallways.
The McCormack merger with Boston Community Leadership Academy is a big victory for the McCormack. Perille initially recommended closing the school.
During renovations, scheduled between 2020 and 2022, the McCormack will temporarily share space with Irving Middle School.
In eliminating middle schools, Boston is moving toward having two major grade configurations to reduce the number of times students switch schools. Lower-grade schools would end after grade six or eight and upper-grade schools would begin at grade seven or nine.
Seventeen schools will add sixth grade in either 2020 or 2021.
The changes appear to have the support of incoming Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.
“BuildBPS offers an incredible opportunity to achieve a goal we all have — high-quality schools in every neighborhood,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of the commitments already made and look forward to engaging with the entire BPS family soon to continue this important strategic work in ensuring equitable and excellent schools for every BPS student.”