The Boston City Council passed a resolution Wednesday opposing relocating the O’Bryant School of Math and Science to West Roxbury, one day after an hours-long hearing on the proposal where O’Bryant parents, teachers and alumni voiced their opposition to the move.
The nonbinding resolution, introduced by Councilor Julia Mejia, also called on Boston Public Schools to release a 10-year districtwide master facilities plan, due to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by the end of the year as part of an agreement Mayor Michelle Wu signed to avert a state takeover of the district.
The resolution passed with nine councilors voting in its favor. Two councilors — Ricardo Arroyo and Sharon Durkan — opposed the resolution while one councilor, Ruthzee Louijeune, voted present. The vote was largely a symbolic gesture as nonbinding resolutions have no legal power.
“This administration continues to fail to meet the moment when it comes to community engagement and creating opportunities for people to feel heard,” Mejia said. “I think this is an opportunity for them to restore that trust and give people an opportunity to feel affirmed.”
In June, Wu unveiled an ambitious proposal to overhaul Boston’s high school system that included moving the O’Bryant to a completely rebuilt facility at the now-vacant West Roxbury Education Complex on the VFW Parkway. The O’Bryant currently shares a campus with Madison Park Technical Vocational School in Roxbury, which Wu also hopes to revitalize and expand.
Wu and Superintendent Mary Skipper’s vision for the new O’Bryant includes state-of-the-art labs, access to plenty of green space, and extensive athletic facilities, including an indoor pool. Relocating the O’Bryant would also allow the school to grow from 1,600 to 2,000 students with more seats for seventh- and eighth-graders.
“I attended the O’Bryant and one of the things that was constant was the facilities were not up to par,” Arroyo said. “If you had proposed then a new school — a state-of-the-art school that adds 600 seats — I know that personally I, myself, and other folks would have been on board with that.”
But critics of the plan have pointed out the West Roxbury Education Complex — formerly West Roxbury High School — is largely inaccessible by public transportation, which will make commuting to school a major challenge for families living in the easternmost parts of the city.
BPS has proposed an initial transportation plan to provide shuttle buses to the West Roxbury campus from transit hubs across Boston. Wu’s administration is also in talks with MassDOT and the MBTA about building a stop on the commuter rail line near the campus.
The district and city officials said at Tuesday’s hearing that the median travel time for students commuting to West Roxbury would be on par with the typical commuting time for other Boston high schoolers, but acknowledged commuting times would increase for students from East Boston and Charlestown.
“The issue is not that O’Bryant students don’t deserve a quality facility or amazing education,” said councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who co-sponsored the resolution. “It’s that the location then presents a problem.”
Of Boston’s three exam schools, the O’Bryant is its most diverse: In the 2022-23 school year, more than one-third of the students identified as Latino, 31 percent as Black, and 19 percent as Asian. Half spoke a native language other than English, and nearly 60 percent were low income.
At a City Council hearing Tuesday, several O’Bryant educators, parents, and alumni testified that they opposed the move, with many fearing relocating the O’Bryant from its longtime home in the Black cultural center of Boston to a predominantly white neighborhood would dilute its diversity and culture. The hearing was preceded by a protest outside City Hall.