Nine Boston schools losing space amid student influx

Teacher Kara Lysy worked with her K2 class at Dorchester’s Lee Academy, which will be moving into its own building next year. Boston schools have seen an enrollment rise in the lower grades.
Teacher Kara Lysy worked with her K2 class at Dorchester’s Lee Academy, which will be moving into its own building next year. Boston schools have seen an enrollment rise in the lower grades.

Nine Boston schools are slated to lose space for art, computer, and science instruction next fall, as school officials plan for an influx of 1,200 students.

The nine schools are among 27 elementary schools, K-8 schools, and early childhood centers that are being tapped so far to accommodate the enrollment spike, mostly in the lower grades, accord­ing to a report that will be presented to the School Committee Wednesday night.

In all, 34 rooms in those buildings will be converted into additional classrooms.


In cases where an art, computer, or science room will be taken away, school officials said the teacher of that particular specialty will put their supplies and materials on a cart and travel to students’ homeroom classrooms.

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“The important thing is for parents to know the programs will continue,” said Lee McGuire, a School Department spokesman. “The art teacher they love will be there in the fall.”

School officials raised alarms in January that the enrollment spike could eliminate many specialty classrooms, after they asked every principal of a school that serves students in primary grades to identify at least one room to house an extra class of students, even if it meant sacrificing space for art, music, science, or other subjects.

School officials said this week that they were able to minimize the impact on specialty rooms because several schools had classrooms that were not being fully utilized or were being used for other purposes.

They will also gain nine additional rooms next fall when they begin to house the Joseph Lee School and Lee Academy in Dorchester in separate buildings.


But some parents worry that teachers will not be able to offer the same caliber of program on a cart that they can in a classroom, and those parents wonder how carts can be wheeled around many of the city’s decades-old buildings that have multiple floors and no elevators. “How do you get carts up and down stairs? It doesn’t make sense,” said Kenny Jervis, a parent at Roger Clap Innovation School in Dorchester, where a combined art and science room is scheduled to be replaced next fall with a preschool class. “And where are they going to store these carts?” Jervis said. “There’s no storage space.”

The Clap School Parent Council sent a letter to the School Department last month, registering its objection to taking away the art/science room.

In the letter, they said space was already running tight, pointing out that teachers have to tutor students or do other ­activities in hallways and stairwells.

Besides the Clap, art rooms are slated to be lost at the Kilmer School in West ­Roxbury and the Tynan in South Boston; a computer lab at Higginson-Lewis School in Roxbury; and science rooms at the Jackson-Mann in Allston, the Mozart in Roslindale, the Winship in Brighton, and the ­Adams and the Guild, both in East Boston.

The number of schools losing specialty classrooms could grow in coming months.


The School Department is halfway through identifying about 75 additional classrooms that might be needed next year to accommodate the largest enroll­ment city schools are ­expected to have in eight years.

More than 58,000 students are expected next year, a 2 percent increase over current enroll­ment.

About half the ­increase is due to more toddlers being diagnosed with disabilities. Under state and federal law, these students can enter public schools as soon as they turn 3.

Parents at a recent Kilmer School Parent Council meeting appeared receptive to adding a kindergarten classroom that would educate both regular ­education students and those with disabilities, Martha Echan, the council’s cochairwoman, said in an e-mail.

“One theme that was recurring during conversations about this topic is that we are really happy to be in a high-
performing school in Boston and if we can give more students that opportunity, then we should do our best to make it work,” said Echan, adding that the Kilmer is planning to increase arts programming this fall, even if it means going into homerooms.

McGuire said school officials are examining whether other space can be optimized at the Clap so the art/science room can be saved, but at this point they “don’t want to overpromise anything.”

Gene Gorman, a parent representative to the Clap’s governing board, expressed optimism that a solution will be found.

“Compromises are reached all the time,” Gorman said. “This is just about being more creative in how you use the space.”

James Vaznis can be reached at