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BPS plans to shut West Roxbury high schools; more schools could follow

Word is starting to come out tonight of schools that BPS officials want to shut as part of an ambitious program to consolidate Boston students into fewer, but modernized, school buildings. Among the first to go under the BuildBPS program, Start Smart BPS reports, are the West Roxbury Academy and the Urban Science Academy.

In a letter sent today to staffers, students and parents at the schools, both housed in what is now called the West Roxbury Education Complex, interim Superitendent Laura Perille wrote the building is in such bad shape it won't last to July and that it would need to be shut for two years for repairs. Rather than do that, she said, BPS wants to just shut the two schools completely. She said that students would get priority assignments for seats in other non-exam BPS schools and that administrators are looking at ensuring current teachers can get jobs at other schools.

Perille's letter does not say what will happen to the building and its campus, which includes state-of-the-art athletic fields, opened at a cost of $18 million in 2015.

Also slated for closing, but in 2020: The McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, which BPS wants to rebuild and turn into a 7-12 school. Current McCormack students will get seats at an expanded Excel High School.

Perille is expected to detail more proposed closings and reorganizations at the School Committee's Wednesday meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Bolling Building in Dudley Square.

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Comments

...was the primary emotion at the McCormack staff meeting today, and for good reason. Nothing about this "plan" to dismantle our school makes sense. Our students and school community will suffer, and the folks at central office have made it clear that they truly don't care.

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Get it done.

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Voting closed 11

Yup.

Everybody in BPS has been pushing for school closures for years. High schools are half-empty and class sizes barely hit double digits in underperforming high schools.

The only complaints youll hear from the rest of BPS is that they should be closing more than three schools.

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Nobody wants their school closed. They want it renovated and they want to be able to drink the water. They want good teachers that stay and they want money for a wide variety of programs just like the kids in Cambridge and wealthy suburbs.

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BPS has way more money than virtually every school district except Cambridge?

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We've discussed this before, but Per-pupil spending isn't really a great comparison point when looking at Boston vs. wealthy towns in the Commonwealth. Boston has a disproportionately higher number of ELL students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. They're more expensive to educate, so it's apples to oranges.

But even when you look at per-pupil spending, there are quite a number of towns and cities that spend more than Boston.

Towns on the cape, Cambridge of course, but also Waltham, Watertown, Concord-Carlisle, Weston, Burlington, Amherst, Lincoln, and a whole slew of very small rich towns as well.

The difference between Boston and Commonwealth cities with similar demographic profiles for their students, is that Boston has the money. They just choose not to fully fund the schools.

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Boston's spending FAR exceeds every other city in the state with similar problems. Plus they get huge amounts in external funds that covers even more programs compared to the cities you mention, but it falls under a separate budget. And none of that counts all the volunteer tutors the community provides, which is free.

One of the biggest determinants of per pupil spending is demographics, which explains why Cambridge is so high and the oddball numbers for many cape towns.

Hell, there was a report a couple years ago where even the BOS said they were overspending by 10% (although about half was probably transportation).

Again, BPS has many problems. Last on that list is a lack of money.

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Marty wants to close upwards of 30 schools. No one doubts many buildings are very old and in desperate need of renovation and reconstruction, but if he thought he got heat from the bell times fiasco last year I hope he knows what’s coming his way when 25% of buildings are sold to developers.

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I'm very happy to trade Marty Walsh's future reelection as a mayor to get some BPS reforms done but... why have we never seen the report of classroom utilization?

That was never published, right?

We all know this ends up with the Haley getting a new LEED certified building somehow...

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They refuse to seek any kind of community buy-in for their decisions. Top-down, opaque, foundation-driven closures without any attempt to keep school communities together.

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The City's own BuildBPS report said they need all the space they have. They're going to be building more than they close. E.g. with this move, McCormack expands from 3 grades to 6. That's hardly a closing.

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There are about the same number of schools as 20 years ago serving a system that is 20% smaller.
The system loses about 500 students a year and that's been with an ever expanding pre-k that fills some of the void. Pre-k can only grow another couple years before they run out of kids unless they expand to pre pre k.

Once the schools start dropping 750 kids a year, why would they need this space barring some earth shattering demographic changes?

BPS has become a jobs program, hiring hundreds of additional people that are not teachers for a perennially shrinking system.

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If your kids’ school disappeared, they and all their friends dispersed across the system, teachers your family has trusted for years were excessed and scattered across the system, and then the school reopened years later with more grades, what would you call it?

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That's what I'd call it.

Right now every student at the McCormack has to go to a minimum of two other schools: a different school for K-5 and a different school for 9-12.

Reconfiguring the school as a 7-12 means the kids going there will go to a minimum of one other school: K-6.

Many students, of course, will go to several other schools under either configuration, but the number of transitions for kids will be lessened by this plan.

It's only three years. Kids all came from somewhere else a year or two ago and are going somewhere else in a year or two (those who don't just stay there for one year already) Dispersed across the system is exactly their destiny now. The change is to address the problem of multiple incompatible configurations that causes this repeated dispersal.

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This plan squanders the community and supports and relationships and teams BPS asked teachers and principles and full inclusion directors to foster at West Roxbury Academy, Urban Science Academy and McCormick.

Disbanding these schools is 100% unnecessary.

The plan is about buildings not functioning schools. Their plan could address both if they cared to. Teachers, students and BTU asked to be invited to the table to work out a better plan.

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If any other buildings were going to be closed, they would know it by now.

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His job was basically to travel the country in 3-5 year stints closing plants deemed excess capacity.

If you saw him coming, you got your resume ready.

Looks like she's effectively got his job.

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cue the "Norm gets a job as a hatchet man" episode of Cheers.

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It’s going to make for a huge development.

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How old is it?

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It replaced Roslindale High School, which I always thought closed due to busing but later found out was part of a planned move.

I took the ISEE (or whatever it is) there in the 1980s. It was in kind of rough shape then. Still better than Hyde Park High was then- the blackboard in the room where I sat the test the other time (I took it in 6th and 8th grade) had a giant hole in it.

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I went to elementary school in two different 1930s buildings (the original Kilmer, and then the old Lyndon building), and then BLS, where the majority of the building is from 1922, and for the most part, they were fine. Definitely some issues with heat due to the seemingly-never-updated boiler rooms, but structurally fine. Was 1970s construction really shoddy? Is English High also bad?

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Of course, using poured concrete and putting it in a wetland couldn’t help, either.

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Yes. 1970s construction really was that shoddy. Other BPS buildings built in the 70s are also in terrible shape. Some suffer from what they call "sick building syndrome." The pre-WWII buildings, built in an era before air conditioning, were built with big windows and good air circulation. The 1970s buildings tend to have mold problems. The building the Muniz Academy is in (formerly the Agassiz School) was also built in the 1970s and had such a problem. It took millions of dollars to remediate.

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although the architecture was ahead of its time.

Completely idiotic location for a school, though - it's practically in Needham and accessible only by VFW Parkway. They didn't even bother constructing proper sidewalks up the access road because they knew that nobody would ever be walking or cycling there.

And who knows what kind of toxic chemicals are present in the area thanks to the old Gardner Street Dump, reincarnated in 2000 as Millennium Park.

Actually, the landfill was covered with half a million tons of dirt from the Big Dig - so it must be an extremely clean place for human occupation.

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In addition to the garbage walkability, there's only a single bus that goes out there, which gets super overstuffed and doesn't run on the most reliable schedule.

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Taking the 37 entails crossing a busy roadway after walking a distance, and although I am currently in a comment war about something similar, West Roxbury station is not walking distance to the school, and I've never heard of a plan to build a station nearby.

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both the commuter rail and the 37 option (you wouldn't go to the terminus, because the streets don't cut through, you'd have to walk down to spring anyway so might as well get off at st theresa) require a decent walk (doable, but a bummer in any kind of weather, probably a good 20 min) and then navigating the spring/VFW intersection, which is pretty dodgy and not pedestrian friendly. I've nearly been hit crossing VFW to get some lunch several times, and that's in the middle of the day.

I mean, this area is essentially the suburbs, directly abutting Needham and Newton and Dedham, the literal very edge of the city. it sucks as a commute, especially for kids who have to go to forest hills and THEN bus it on top of that.

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It's a terrible location for a high school that draws kids from all over the city. Maybe it's a better location for a new elementary school for West Roxbury. Or a better location to sell to developers.

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Roxbury Prep will end up at the West Roxbury High School campus as a “compromise” to the Stop 361 Belgrade crowd. The fix is in. Watch.

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This makes so much sense. Close a public hs and pave the way for more charters. And the Belgrade Ave community won't care because their kids don't go to either school.

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charter HS are still public HS. They're not giving this to Roxbury Latin or something...

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The way Roxbury Prep and others work is that a different but related entity buys the land/building and leases it to a charter operator. So giving it to Roxbury Prep would in effect give the land to a for-profit landowner that then takes a New Market tax credit.

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Wouldn't Rox Prep be happy with that? Bigger campus for their school since they have gone from their original statement of the school having 250 students to 800-900 students. Gives them more space to expand to the size they really want.

The kids would have much needed outdoor space & the school could use the money they have raised or are raising to fix WR High rather than building a new school in a lot the size of a postage stamp.

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But the board says the building would have to be closed for two years for rehabilitation to be used as a school past July.

Does a Fall 2021 opening meet the timeline Roxbury Prep needs?

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..might as well, that's the only one the city seems to care about anyway.

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given that BLS gets the least amount of funding per student from BPS of any high school in the system.

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Huge expansion of the McCormack, plus expansion of Excel (the old Southie High), both to 7-12.
And close a continually struggling pair of small high schools that are located on the far edge of W. Roxbury, miles away from where their students live (and work).

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They're trying to change more schools to be either K-6 or 7-12. This is a good idea, to reduce the number of transitions for kids and increase the awareness of options for elementary students.

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So now we will have mixed up goals once again for what schools should look like. K-8 or k-6?
Will kids at k-8 schools be disadvantaged and only get left over seats at 7-12 high schools?

And will the YMCA get the property In Dorchester beside the McCormack that BuildBPS tried to get through the school committee under Chang without sharing the true aims re school closures?

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Today's Glob article makes it clear that BPS is trying to abolish the middle school entirely. They want four configurations: K-6, K-8, 7-12 and 9-12. That's a substantial reduction in configurations.

I think what they are aiming for in creating so many more 7-12 schools is increasing the number of students who know about, and participate in, the exam school selection process.

There will still be some K-8 and 9-12 schools in part because some of Boston's specialized high schools will remain high schools only and won't be adding 7th and 8th grades.

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I find it odd that Mayor Walsh and Acting Superintendent Perille, long past parenting age, are making choices for "children" that they never had.

I'm all in favor of saving money and consolidating resources for efficiency but these two? Walsh will find a way to make it a union boondoggle, closing schools, enriching unions. I'm sure the "bids" are being prepared.

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Why should we let a tax cheating draft dodger have any input on making decisions about the use of the US military or be allowed to sign off on a huge tax reform bill?

Your generation will be dead before the worst effects of climate change happen - why should anyone over the age of 50 be allowed to vote on policies related to carbon emissions?

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First, Perille sent two kids through BPS.

Second, Walsh could still have kids yet.

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I find it odd that Charlie Baker, who regularly gets driven everywhere, is making choices for a "transportation option" that he never uses.

Newsflash: elected officials often have to make decisions about governmental programs that they themselves will never use. We should all hope we're electing people who can make educated and informed decisions even if they're not directly affected by those decisions.

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This is just one more example of the Development Mayor

He continues to destroy the neighborhoods and life breath of the cities- schools, affordable housing and religion.

Despicable

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The schools are isolated out in the middle of a park, with the closest thing to a community being a home depot and some other light industrial buildings. this isn't a walkable embedded local school where the kids who live across the street walk over and use the playground on weekends.

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Three reasons why BPS has failed its mission. First it has failed to provide safety and security to thousands of kids who have to ride the MBTA every day and who are often bullied and beat up, Second it has failed the minority community who sign the kids up at birth to secure seats in the METCO program and third Charter schools are safer and kids receive a better education.

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