Good News: At least 74 NEW classrooms are needed and will open next year in the BPS

Bad News: There’s no room  

Given the growth of kindergarten needs, the increase in SPED early childhood programs, and a citywide increase in Grade 1 and Grade 2 enrollment in certain zones, the BPS plans to open an additional 74 to 80 new classrooms next year. What’s more, the Higginson, recently closed, is slated to reopen.  Let’s pause for a moment and rejoice. Our schools are improving, our schools are desirable, and our enrollment is growing. That’s great news. As a matter of fact, it’s terrific news. So what’s the bad news? There’s no place to put these 80 new classes.

lucy stone
Former BPS School, Lucy Stone, now a charter, could have been

A few years ago the district shuttered a few schools, moved others, played musical

chairs with yet others, and leased a few no-longer-to-be-needed buildings (oops!)  to charter schools. The end result: The district has run out of space. Last year it hurried at the last moment and placed a number of classrooms into already-crowded schools. This year it is about to do the same. At the same time, it has had to reopen the Fifield and the Higginson. Two more additional schools that could have also been reopened–had there been better planning–are the Lucy Stone and the Endicott, but both buildings were leased to charter school operators shortly after they closed.  Bridge Charter now inhabits the Endicott; Roxbury Prep, the Stone. This amounts to one bad decision after another.

So how will this play out in September? How will 80 classes be squeezed into schools that are already tight for space. They won’t easily fit.  Extraneous classes (you know, art and music) will have to make way for some of these new incoming classes. The OT, the PT, and the SLP–now sharing a room–will all vacate that room and move to the auditorium. Corridors will be set aside for ESL classes. Those of you in these ‘receiving’ schools know the drill. The drill is a terrible exercise in sacrificing

BPS Classrooms Often Set Up in Corridors (stock photo)

Peter to pay Paul. What’s more, it is a disservice to all children to operate our schools in this fashion. Both new students and students in the receiving schools suffer greatly.

So here’s what we call on the school department to do two things. Open up any available city-owned buildings and embark on a long term, transparent planning effort that takes into account how very short on space all of our schools are.

A quick study in contrast: There’s a huge town wide debate in Brookline as this is written about whether to open a school, closed years ago, to accommodate a surge in student population. The matter has been the subject of a petition drive and a parent demonstration, and will be shortly going to a town meeting. The Brookline controversy is sparking a conversation. By comparison it’s small potatoes (or relatively small potatoes) to what we have gone through this year and last.  Yet in Boston, home of the appointed school board and a mayoral and city council campaign there is nary a word of discussion, let alone a debate. Sad. How is is that our students can be treated such with so little outcry from policymakers?