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BPDA crypt keepers dig up plans for new Roslindale charter school, hurriedly rebury them

Nearly two years after Roxbury Prep filed plans to replace the old Clay Chevrolet place on Belgrade Avenue with a new high school, the BPDA had scheduled a public meeting on the proposal. But BPDA planners sent out word Friday that the meeting, scheduled for this Tuesday, has been called off.

The note did not give a specific reason for the postponement, which will run "until further notice," but did express the wish that recipients have "a happy and safe holiday season."

Roxbury Prep, which currently splits its high-school students between rented space in Hyde Park and Roxbury, had proposed a school with room for 562 students at the Clay site, on the Roslindale/West Roxbury line in its filing on Jan. 8, 2019. Most of the students, the school said, would get to and from school either by commuter rail - the site is next door to a stop on the Needham Line - or by one of the three bus lines that run down Belgrade Avenue to and from Forest Hills.

Some nearby residents rose in vocal protest, arguing the school would mean traffic hell for the area in a way that Holy Name School and Catholic Memorial, on equally busy West Roxbury roads, do not and besides, the proposed building is just too small for the number of students Roxbury Prep would enroll. At the very first public meeting on the proposal, in 2017, some residents publicly complained about students from other neighborhoods pouring into their bucolic area, but residents stopped raising that argument when they realized it might seem racist.

Following that meeting, Roxbury Prep reduced the size of its proposal from 800 to 562 students.

The BPDA did hold a public meeting on the proposal in February, 2019, but its board has deferred any votes on the project. The Zoning Board of Appeals, which also has to approve the proposal, has similarly deferred action, to await a vote by the BPDA.

By way of comparison, the amount of time the BPDA has sat on the proposal and taken no vote is now several months longer than the period during which the authority considered and approved plans for Winthrop Center, a 55-story office and residential building downtown that required a complete rewrite of the site's zoning, negotiations on $150 million in payments to the city for the purchase of a municipal garage on the site and even action by the state legislature to account for the shadows the building would cast on Boston Common.

The BPDA received formal plans for that project in November, 2016 and approved it 18 months later, in May, 2018.

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Sacred Heart School is in Roslindale, miles (okay, at least one mile) from West Roxbury. Closer to Hyde Park.

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Voting closed 10

...Holy Name. And don’t forget St. Theresa’s and Roxbury Latin, both of which generate plenty of traffic without much complaint from their West Roxbury neighbors.

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Voting closed 9

Neither Sacred Heart nor CM are nearby, but that wasn't the point of the sentence.

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Voting closed 6

Article corrected.

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Voting closed 9

I know, me? But, yeah, I meant Holy Name, the school right at, um, Holy Name Rotary, the one where, back in the days when I worked out in the western suburbs, I'd sometimes get stuck in a mini-traffic jam there on my way to Rte. 9 because of over-zealous crossing guards who would stop traffic even before students would get to the crossing, so you'd think I'd know the name of the school there.

Fixed.

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Voting closed 24

As a Roslindale resident within walking/biking/driving distance, I would love to see this move forward. More schools is a good thing for a neighborhood, and there is no reason why the traffic impact would be serious enough to say no.

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Voting closed 46

Same here. I live literally a half block from the proposed school site and have zero concerns about traffic. Let’s get these students the school they deserve!

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Voting closed 39

For “Roxbury Prep McDonalds.”

As I life long resident, I’m all set. It adds NOTHING of value to the community.

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Voting closed 17

Generally speaking, yes, but apparently the City of Boston disagrees. Last year, BPS closed the West Roxbury Educational Complex, home to three different schools/programs. It was a move that particularly hurt special-needs students.

The closure (caused by decades-long deferred maintenance) implies that the city thinks there's too many schools in West Roxbury. So, before Boston takes any action on this Roxbury Prep building, it needs to make emergency repairs to the WREC and reopen it...

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Voting closed 24

Boston is full of empty and half empty school buildings. These charter schools need to stop building schools in districts with plenty of schools and start renovating these other buildings. Tents are creeping into our parks and sidewalks. Stop investing in buildings that are only occupied 20% of the time

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Voting closed 19

You may live within a reasonable distance, but even Roxbury Prep acknowledges that most of the prospective students will not.

As you well know, West Roxbury is far from a transit-friendly place. Buses run every ~45 minutes during the mid-day period (i.e. 2pm high school dismissal). Although there are 3 bus lines, the ever-so-smart MBTA decides to schedule all three within ~5 minutes of each other, resulting in 30+ minute waits that make the area difficult to access. With service cuts coming literally next Monday (remember, majority-white Westie is not much of a "transit-critical" community as defined by the T), why would the school not generate additional traffic to the area?

Although I don't think traffic should be the only reason for opposing the school, I personally would be more inclined to support the project if Roxbury Prep somehow secures a commitment from the T to improve transit in the area -- after all, it's a majority Black and Latinx school, which translates into a lot of political capital in today's times...

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Voting closed 15

1. You're forgetting the commuter rail which is how many students get *out* of WR to school so it should also work bringing kids in.
2. The T can and does update bus schedules and even routes to take into account school usage. Which would even help with those 30 minute wait times.

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Voting closed 6

Considering the changes they are making at BPS which will limit West Roxbury, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain's access to the exam schools considerably you would think that families would welcome a decent high school in their neighborhood.

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Voting closed 8

That’s the problem...it’s not a decent school. It doesn’t educate all children and their expulsion rates are revolting (even after bringing them down some...still higher than average and still a problem).

Everyone opposed to the school isn’t a racist. Some certainly are but there were unfortunately a few people in the neighborhood that painted everyone against it with one racist brush...it was super “woke” & tolerant of them.

Uncommon schools aren’t in it for the kids. I’d be happy with a BPS school there but I don’t want my taxes going to Uncommon.

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Voting closed 17

Oh wait there aren't any.

There are a lot of "good faith" objections to the school. Water run off. Location of bus stops. Whether high schoolers can cross the street. The need to establish eight feet of conservation land instead of a parking lot. Not enough parking.

Surely, such objections are predicated on the sense that such schools are for other people's kids.

And are made by people who are comfortable with their political alliance with racists, are upset by the phrase "woke," who think calling out racism is intolerant, who make vague and unsubstantiated allegations that "tax dollars" would be misused.

If the objections were so persuasive, there would have been a hearing and a decision.

If the allegations of wrongful conduct were so persuasive, there would have been a complaint and an investigation.

If the mayor had any balls, he'd have stood up to the vetocratic bigotry of the local "neighborhood defenders."

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Voting closed 8

Putting Roxbury Prep on hold during this time is the right decision. Roxbury Prep is a subpar charter school, with a high student and teacher turnover who, according to BESE 2018 figure, took $25,159,274.25 out of the Boston Public Schools. From the beginning, Uncommon Schools, the New York CMO who runs Roxbury Prep, plan was to game the system. What people have to understand is, unlike BPS district schools where each school is held accountable, charter schools are allowed to consolidate the test scores of all their school "campuses." Aggregate scores always mask, you can't tell what "campus" is succeeding or which campus is failing. The Boston Indicators Project notes that PISA Research has proven that test scores are often an indicator of income level, that's the real reason why Roxbury Prep wants to build in West Roxbury.

Just a reminder, in Roxbury Prep’s original application to BESE, they requested an 800 seat high school. When that was approved, almost immediately they followed up with an addendum asking for an increase to 1,200 high school seats. Roxbury Prep stated, "we want a big high school for the financial sustainability." They stated that 1,200 students were required to finance all the courses they need to meet the conditions of their charter application and thought about the financial issues "very deeply."

Numbers matter, this year Roxbury Prep has 648 grade 9-12 high school students, last year they had 624 and in 2019 they had 568. Yet they reduced the size of the high school to 560 students, to skirt and bypass the Project Review approval process to get their foot in the door, it would seem that 1,200 students at this location is Roxbury Prep's strategic goal.

Finally, the attempted move to West Roxbury must be very disappointing to parents who chose Roxbury Prep because they wanted their children to walk to a neighborhood school. In 2018, Roxbury Prep bought two acres of land on Vale Street near a playground and a ball field in Roxbury, near their other schools. You have to ask yourself, why don’t they build a neighborhood walk-to high school on Vale Street that would accommodate all their high school students and be near their other schools? Roxbury Prep talks about consolidating spaces, but builds elementary and middle schools in one place, and then plans to send their students to a long, extended day high school that will require a train ride or bus ride with 2, maybe 3 changes? Let's not forget that Boston Public Schools will be required, by charter school law, to pay student transportation.

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