Big changes in store for Boston school buildings
West Roxbury, East Boston, and the southern part of the city near the Dorchester-Mattapan line would be among the first neighborhoods to get new school buildings under a 10-year citywide construction plan, Boston school officials announced Wednesday night.
East Boston and Dorchester-Mattapan would get new elementary schools that officials hope will help remedy a shortage of seats in those sections of the city. The East Boston proposal appears to be moving on a fast track: School officials expect to finalize the purchase of property this fiscal year.
The West Roxbury project, originally announced last month, calls for the demolition of the West Roxbury high school complex and the closure in June of the two schools there, Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy.
The projects are among a dozen that school officials hope to complete or have underway in 10 years. The idea is to improve or replace outdated buildings, add classroom space in neighborhoods that need it, and eliminate middle schools, which would require elementary and some high schools to pick up those grade levels. (Currently most elementary schools end at Grade 5 and high schools begin at Grade 9.)
The projects were highlighted in a 166-page report officials made public at a School Committee meeting Wednesday night. The new report fills in many details of a proposal first made public in October and provides a snapshot of what kind of major investments neighborhoods might expect to see in the next decade.
“The proposed plan will be the subject matter of our public conversations over the next few months or years,” Laura Perille, interim superintendent, wrote in the introduction to the report. “While the plan is technical, at times, and focused on facilities, it is designed to improve the overall educational experience for all children.”
Overall, the school system expects to construct five new buildings and renovate three middle schools into elementary or high schools. These projects will be in addition to four other ongoing projects in various phases of construction or planning.
Currently existing schools would have the opportunity to bid on the opportunity to move into the new or renovated buildings by submitting proposals on how they would use the new space.
Here’s a glimpse at what Boston neighborhoods have in store:
The city has long had a shortage of classroom seats in this neighborhood, forcing hundreds of students to bus through the tunnels to schools as far away as Brighton and Dorchester.
Boston school officials are aiming for two new schools for East Boston and expect to purchase one site during this fiscal year. While the report does not identify the site, it says it is near the Otis Elementary School, which would get first dibs on the new building.
The other project would be a new building for a high school, enabling it to add seventh and eighth grades. A site has not been found yet.
But the two proposals will likely not remedy the classroom shortage. The report notes that the neighborhood’s elementary schools are already sacrificing space for art and music and would not be able to accommodate a sixth grade.
This neighborhood is essentially in a holding pattern because its future is intertwined with solving East Boston’s classroom shortage. Many East Boston students attend school in Charlestown, particularly at the Edwards Middle School.
Once the space crunch eases in East Boston, school officials would like to convert the Edwards into a K-8 school for the Harvard-Kent Elementary School or the Warren-Prescott K-8. In the meantime, many families and school leaders at the Harvard-Kent want to add a sixth grade immediately and contend they already have enough space at their current building.
The Eliot K-8 in the North End is in the final phase of adding a third building for its highly popular school. School officials also remain committed to constructing a new building for the Quincy Upper School in Chinatown.
Back Bay/Beacon Hill/South End
The city this fall broke ground on a new Boston Arts Academy building in the Fenway, a project that had been under development for more than a decade. The Carter School, which is located in the South End and serves students with profound disabilities, is also in the pipeline for renovations.
The neighborhood has a shortage of seats, and many elementary schools don’t have enough space to add a sixth grade.
The proposal looks at the possibility of three new elementary schools in Dorchester or in neighborhoods adjacent to it: one in the Newmarket Square area, which is near the South Bay shopping center; another in the vicinity of Blue Hill Avenue and Franklin Park; and another near the Mattapan/Dorchester line. Each would serve between 400 and 700 students.
Current elementary schools could bid on moving into the new buildings.
School officials also appear to be waffling on the future of the Lilla Frederick Middle School in Dorchester. School officials initially urged the school to convert into an elementary school, but the report says it could become a 7-12 school.
The McCormack Middle School building would close in June 2020 — subject to School Committee approval — and would be converted into a 7-12 school. School officials are working with the McCormack to relocate its seventh and eighth grades to an existing high school.
A severe shortage of seats exist in this part of the city. The report says the neighborhood is a top priority for a new elementary school, which would be located near the Mattapan-Dorchester line. School officials also want to increase capacity at the Mattahunt Elementary School.
Jamaica Plain/Mission Hill/Roxbury
The report calls for a possible new school building near Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain that current schools in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury could bid on. Roxbury schools would also be able to bid on two new buildings slated to go up near the Dorchester-Roxbury line.
The Timilty Middle School in Roxbury would eventually close and be converted into an elementary school.
The report says there are enough lower-grade seats to accommodate West Roxbury families, although its three K-8 schools are enormously popular with extensive waiting lists.
Plans also are underway — pending School Committee approval in December — to close Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy due to what school and city officials describe as deteriorating conditions at the West Roxbury high school complex. School officials are proposing to demolish the building and replace it with a new 7-12 building.
The Irving Middle School would close and be renovated into an elementary school. School officials are also exploring the construction of another elementary school within the vicinity of the Roslindale-Hyde Park line. Both neighborhoods have among the smallest elementary schools in the city, and adding a sixth grade to most of them may not be possible due to space constraints.
Conspicuously absent from the plan is any discussion over the future use of the abandoned and deteriorating Rogers Middle School building in Hyde Park.
No big construction projects are planned for this neighborhood where the number of seats greatly exceeds the number of school-age children. Many students in other neighborhoods where there is a shortage of seats are bused to Allston/Brighton schools. It remains unclear what will happen to all of the schools in this neighborhood after the school system erects new buildings elsewhere.
No major construction projects are planned for this neighborhood where the number of school seats exceeds the number of students who live here.