Families surprised as BPS reshuffles its grades setup

The Richard Mather Elementary School on Meetinghouse Hill will gain a sixth grade next year under a new BPS plan unveiled last week. Reporter file photo

More than 200 Boston students will have to find a new school next year. Families at three schools learned in a letter sent last Wednesday (Nov. 8) that their seventh and eighth grade classrooms will close starting in September.

For Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston and Edison K-8 School in Brighton, their seventh and eighth grades will close next fall. Haley Pilot School in Roslindale will lose its seventh grade in September as well but retain eighth grade until the following year.

One school — Mather Elementary in Dorchester — will gain a sixth grade.

The move aligns with a long-term district plan to limit the number of times students change schools, Superintendent Mary Skipper said in the letter.

Research shows that school transitions can negatively impact students academically.

Boston Public School’s current model is complicated and requires an unusually high number of transitions, according to a 2017 district report.
Max Baker, a spokesperson for Boston Public Schools, said the district has made “similar grade adjustments” in more than 40 schools since 2019 as part of its work to make most schools either Pre-K to sixth grade, or seventh to 12th grade.

In the past, the district has given school communities up to 24 months of notice prior to grade reconfigurations, Baker said. But in these instances, schools saw declines in enrollment and, in some cases, high teacher turnover.

But parents like Jean Powers, a mother of a fifth grader at Gardner Pilot Academy, said the district’s plans were too abrupt and added unnecessary disruption to their children’s learning right now.

“Now parents and caregivers are going to be scrambling to find a school for their students for next year,” she said.

Parents of current sixth graders will need to rank their schools of choice by early February, according to the letter. Parents of seventh grade students have until early April. But district officials said they will receive priority for school assignments.

Liliana Ramirez, a mother of a sixth grader at Gardner Pilot Academy, said the news came abruptly. She added that she’s worried about uprooting her daughter and placing her in a new school because she has an Individualized Education Plan, which provides support services at her current school.

Baker said: “There will be many touchpoints to support families and staff, including community meetings and office hours, as well as virtual and in-person assistance from BPS Welcome Services.”

Skipper acknowledged in her letter the change could be tough. “We know that changes to school communities can be stressful for students, families, staff, and community partners,” she said.

This story was first published by WBUR 90.9FM on Nov. 10. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.

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