In early May, teachers at Boston Latin Academy received this memorandum, which we find both curious and refreshing, in their mailboxes. Here’s an excerpt:
“Below is a list of the most common violations that are found in our school buildings. Due to these violations many of our buildings fail inspection and end up costing the district thousands of dollars to correct the violations. Every year all our buildings need to be inspected by Boston Inspectional Services and our Facilities Department. Please make sure that all areas are kept clear of the items listed below at all times in order to be in compliance so your building will pass inspection.
“List of Common ISD Inspection Failure Items that Must Be Corrected Immediately
1. Furniture in corridors and stairwells
No Teaching and learning is allowed in corridors or stairwells…”
Imagine “no teaching and learning is allowed in stairwells or corridors.” What a great idea! What about the two ESL classes observed this past December at the Winthrop Elementary School? Or the ESL class observed last year at the Russell? Or the class this year at the Otis? All are housed in a corridor. Truth be told, we have dozens, if not hundreds, of classes that meet daily in corridors and other crowded, unfit and unusable places, each crammed into building crevices of one sort or another.
A further — and sad — irony here is that the Winthrop was just declared a Turnaround School by the state. We wonder if the state noted in its report of the Winthrop that two classes of children were being taught in the corridor. One has to wonder further how many schools in Brookline or Newton have classrooms in their school corridors? Or whether their counselors and clinicians have to compete for space in the basement?
Interestingly, we have what is called “excess capacity” throughout our schools while we have classrooms, conference space, and testing performed in the very corridors of those same buildings.
Here’s how the district assesses ‘excess capacity’: A classroom that has three empty seats — let’s say there are 28 children where there could be 31 — contributes an excess capacity of “3” to the school’s total excess capacity, which oftentimes amounts to dozens of seats. This same school can have an ESL classroom in a corridor, an OT working in a closet, an SLP in a converted lavatory — and still have ‘excess capacity.’ You get the picture.
So, we welcome the above regulation and hope it is followed to the letter: “No teaching and learning is allowed in stairwells or corridors.” Teaching and learning is best done in classrooms and other suitable areas — not corridors and stairwells.