School Committee members Wednesday night voted to close three city schools in June 2022 — the Washington Irving Middle School in Roslindale; the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, and the Jackson/Mann K-8 School in Allston — as part of ongoing restructuring.
Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said the goal is to minimize the number of times students must transition to new schools between kindergarten and high school.
“This will increase the number of students making only one transition … and create the predictable pathways our students need and deserve,” Cassellius said.
Some families affected by the closures expressed concern this fall about a lack of district effort to minimize disruption for their students. Administrators eased some fears earlier this month by approving the addition of new sixth-grade cohorts at three elementary schools, the Sumner, Blackstone, and Mendell, where graduating fifth graders have long been guaranteed spots at the schools now slated for closure.
But that turnaround — which came after the district initially said there was no space for sixth grade classrooms at the schools — damaged the district’s credibility with families, who questioned why the BPS response was reactive rather than proactive, said Vernée Wilkinson, director of the parent advisory board at School Facts Boston, a group that provides support and information to families.
“Families need to be engaged proactively to co-design how things move forward,” Wilkinson said. “This is a new era for the district, and for the way we go about changes.”
District leaders have said students in need of new school placements for next fall will re-enter the school choice process early next year, and will receive priority school assignments.
The district has hired school-based transition coordinators to support students and families through the closures, especially families who don’t speak English and students with individualized plans to accommodate and support their disabilities, according to administrators, who said the new staff members will provide one-on-one transition services and case management for affected students.
The superintendent said the district will work to find new jobs at other schools for all displaced employees, including cooks and custodians.
The district plans to move other, existing schools into the vacant middle school buildings after they close in June. The Irving school building is expected to be used as a K-6 school, while the Timilty building could be used as a K-6 or 7-12 school, or as a “swing space”, according to plans presented by district officials, who said they plan to involve the community in their planning process.
“Families want to be part of our solution,” said Jeri Robinson, the School Committee’s chair. “They care deeply about what is going on in their neighborhoods and their communities.”
Elementary schools that feed into the Timilty and Irving middle schools include the Blackstone and Mendell schools, which have traditionally sent students to the Timilty, and the Bates, Mozart, Philbrick, Sumner, Chittick, and Grew schools, which have sent students to the Irving.
“Too many transitions, too much uncertainty for parents. We heard continuously they wanted less transitions,” Michael O’Neill, the School Committee’s vice chair, said at the meeting.
Five committee members voted for the measure while members Lorena Lopera and Rafaela Polanco Garcia abstained from the vote.