School Committee to hear latest BuildBPS plan tonight

McCormack School in Columbia Point would close under proposal

On Wednesday night, the Boston School Committee will discuss the controversial second phase of BuildBPS, a proposal that includes plans to close Dorchester’s John W. McCormack Middle School by the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and Roxbury’s Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. It also recommends the construction, renovation, or transformation of several schools by 2027 at a budget of $1 billion.

In a Wednesday press release, BPS officials revealed more specifically what this plan includes, beginning with “a strategic framework for facilities investments, as well as improvements that are aligned with the school district’s commitment to fostering exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative schools.”

This framework stems from a BuildBPS report released in March 2017 which underscored the fact that 65 percent of Boston’s 125 schools were built before World War II. BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille called it the largest BPS building project in over 40 years, one that she hopes will create more single-transition pathways for Boston’s students.

“We are first and foremost working to provide equitable access to quality schools to more students, with clear, direct educational pathways to succeed,” Perille said.

One of the approaches to creating these pathways involves reconfiguring the grades of up to 20 schools in order to “increase opportunities for students to change schools only once during their grade K-12 experience,” she said. The closure of several middles schools, such as McCormack Middle School, is tied up with the reconfiguration.

In a letter to the McCormack Middle School community, which serves around 400 students, Perille explained the school’s scheduled closure in 2020 and that students would be able to enroll in Excel High School, which will expand to serve grades 7 through 12. Perille explained that “we intend to expand the number of seats in BPS’s highest-preforming schools and establish greater equity for all students across the Boston Public Schools.”

But members of the McCormack Middle School community are not so sure. Some educators and parents alike have taken to social media to voice their displeasure, questioning the motives and goals of BuildBPS.

Avashia Neema, a teacher at McCormack Middle School, tweeted her concern on Tuesday, noting that no one could explain the need for “dismantling a community.”

“What exactly is the goal of #buildbps again? Building or destroying?” she tweeted.

Perille has defended her position through an op-ed in The Boston Globe, explaining that she would not seek the permanent appointment as BPS superintendent in order to focus on making the tough choices that BPS currently faces.

In remarks to the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh did not address the BuildBPS plans, but he did touch on the growth of BPS and the superintendent search.

“We have selected a committee to begin the search for the next Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools,” Mayor Walsh said. “In the meantime, we built 30 school kitchens to provide students with fresh cooked food. We opened the state-of-the-art Dearborn STEM Academy, Boston’s first new-built high school in 23 years.”

Perille is expected to detail more proposed closings and reorganizations at Wednesday’s meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Bolling Building in Dudley Square, Roxbury.

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