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Six East Boston elementary schools to add sixth grade

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said, “Every decision we make must be rooted in community partnership and equity.”
Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said, “Every decision we make must be rooted in community partnership and equity.”Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2019/Globe Staff

Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius on Thursday announced a number of changes to the district’s long-term facilities plan, including a faster timeline for six elementary schools in East Boston to add grade 6.

Under the changes, this year’s fifth-graders at the East Boston elementary schools will be able to continue their education there as sixth-graders next year. Those schools include the Adams, the Bradley, the Guild, the P.J. Kennedy, the O’Donnell, and the Otis.

Previously, those schools were not slated to add sixth grade until fall 2021, which would have forced this year’s fifth-graders to enroll in different schools next year.

Adding the sixth grade is part of a broader effort to reconfigure the system’s 125 schools. The goal is to have the lower-grade schools end after grade 6 or 8 and to have most high schools begin at grade 7 or 9 — effectively phasing out most city middle schools. The six East Boston elementary schools will join a list of 12 other elementary schools citywide that were already approved to add sixth grade in September 2020.

In light of the expansions, Cassellius has decided to drop the sixth grade from both the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester and the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, starting next fall.

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The McCormack is in the process of developing a merger plan with Boston Community Leadership Academy to form a 7-12 school, which will be located at the McCormack’s building after it has been renovated. Cassellius on Thursday said she is giving those schools an additional year to develop their plan, based on feedback she has received from educators at those schools. The fate of the Edwards is less clear, although school officials have signaled a need to add more lower-grade seats in Charlestown to accommodate growing demand.

“Every decision we make must be rooted in community partnership and equity,” Cassellius said in a statement. “These decisions reflect the many conversations I’ve had over the last six months with families, school staff and community members. These changes will provide families with more predictability from kindergarten to high school graduation and better position our schools to serve our students.”

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Cassellius will discuss the changes with the School Committee at an upcoming meeting. Conversations about where to relocate the Jackson-Mann K-8 School and the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will begin in January as well, Cassellius said Thursday.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he supports the changes.

“Expanding the number of sixth-grade seats at schools across the city is a step in the right direction for how we can better serve our students,” Walsh said in a statement. “These important updates to BuildBPS demonstrate how Superintendent Cassellius and her team are truly listening to the community and taking their feedback into account.”


James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.