Saturday, 2:15 PM
School reorganization plan would shutter five elementary schools
By James Vaznis, Globe Staff
Boston School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson's much-awaited school reorganization plan would leave five elementary buildings empty -- Hamilton, Stone, E. Greenwood, P.A. Shaw, and Higginson -- and lead to the reshuffling of many other school locations and programs.
Several other elementary schools would lose their names in consolidations as the district seeks to expand popular schools and create new options. For instance, the Garfield Elementary School in Brighton would be taken over by the nearby Mary K. Lyons K-8 School so it could add a high school program. Garfield students would then attend the new Edison K-8 School, which would be housed in the Edison Middle School Building.
The district's movement toward smaller high schools, which began five years ago, would also take a hit. The Dorchester Educational Complex, which technically houses three autonomous high schools, would shut down the Noonan Business Academy and the Public Service Academy so the popular Tech Boston Academy can add a middle school program.
The South Boston High Complex would also phase out Odyssey Academy, leaving just two autonomous high schools on that campus.
If approved by the School Committee, the plan would begin to be phased in next fall.
In all, the proposal would expand or create nine new K-8 programs and 6-12 schools. It also would open three new pilot schools and expand three others. And it calls for opening a Young Men's Public Service Academy, a Young Women's Leadership Academy, a truancy center, and a Newcomers Academy for recently settled immigrants.
The proposal should reduce operating costs by $13.8 million over five years, including nearly $5 million in transportation costs. The proposal would increase students' ability to go to schools within walking distance of their homes.
“This plan is all about providing all of our students an outstanding public education,” said Johnson in a statement. “We’ve heard from families across the city about the programs they want for their children, and these proposals enable us to offer more of what parents are asking for. Above all, we are striving to make the Boston Public Schools every parent’s first choice for their children’s education.”
The plan, months in development, will require School Committee approval, which is slated to occur on Oct. 29 after a series of public meetings.
Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said he is still reviewing the proposal.
"I have a sense it may be too ambitious and may be a little too drastic." Stutman said. "Having said that, we will go through public vetting process and see what the school community and the public have to say."
The plan was developed in response to a 7 percent decline in enrollment over the past five years, which has left nearly 8,000 empty seats in grades kindergarten through 8. The changes would enable the superintendent to execute key aspects of her agenda to boost student achievement and to offer parents broader educational opportunities for their children.
The reorganization of the district's 143 schools would be the largest since the 2002-2003 school year when then-Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant and the School Committee decided to close six elementary and middle schools.
Decisions were based on such factors as academic performance, popularity of schools among parents, and building conditions.
The school system is under a City Hall edict to cut millions of dollars in spending as the district faces escalating costs for salaries, health insurance, transportation, and food. At the same time, state and federal aid has failed to keep pace with inflation, and that situation could worsen.
Development of tonight's plan came after City Hall gave the district nearly $20 million earlier this year in additional funding to balance this year's and last year's school budgets -- a small bailout that the district cannot bank on in the future as a possible national recession looms.
Forums to discuss the changes will be held in each of the district's three elementary/middle school zones. Additional meetings will take place at schools slated for expansion, consolidation, or closure.
James Vaznis can be reached at email@example.com
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