Bridge Boston Charter School opened a new facility for 2017-18

Charter school construction in Boston is booming

June 11, 2018
Number of building projects contrasts with with slow pace of construction in Boston Public Schools

Charter schools in Boston have construction projects in the works that total almost $300 million and will create about 600,000 square feet for 5,700 K-12 students.

The Boston Globe reports that the amount of charter school construction—projects underway, recently completed one, or are about to begin—is in stark contrast with the slow pace of a public school construction program launched by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who pledged in his 2013 campaign to spend $1 billion to fix the city’s deteriorating school buildings.

City and school officials have yet to devise a plan detailing which schools would get new facilities or major renovations, and no plan appears forthcoming. 

The only large-scale school district projects moving forward have been in the pipeline since the days of then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino: The Dearborn STEM Academy is slated to move into a new building this fall, the Eliot K-8 Innovation School finished renovating a building last year, and Boston Arts Academy’s building will be replaced with a modern structure.

Jon Clark, co-director of Brooke Charter Schools, says charters are probably achieving construction success because of pressing urgency. Many charters have been running out of space because of rapid enrollment growth.

He also noted that the small size of most charter schools makes it easier for them to decide facilities issues quickly.

“We are a lot more nimble,” he said.

Bridge Boston Charter School spent $25 million to renovate a former health center as its home; Boston Preparatory Charter School opened a new building this year. Brooke Charter Schools plans to open a new high school in the Mattapan neigborhood in the fall — its third project in four years — and Boston Collegiate Charter School is expanding its site in the Dorchester neighborhood.

When officials at Codman Academy scoured their section of Dorchester for a place to house their primary grades, they knocked on the doors of buildings not even for sale. Their tenacity paid off. They purchased a building across the street from their high school program that was not on the market, but had been struggling to fill empty storefronts and offices.

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