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Boston names schools that would close or merge under Johnson's plan

Posted by Roy Greene  December 2, 2010 04:52 PM

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The Agassiz Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, which the state declared underperforming earlier this year, will be among more than the dozen schools that could close or merge, under a proposal Superintendent Carol R. Johnson will be delivering to the School Committee tonight.


The proposal -- broader in scope than the one she withdrew earlier this fall -- includes a mix of new recommendations and previous ones.

"The continuing recession has created a 'new normal' that demands that we make fundamental, structural changes that reflect current reality," Johnson wrote in a letter to parents and students today. "For example, we have far too many school buildings for the number of students we serve. These empty seats cost millions of dollars every year -- money that would be better used on academic efforts."

Johnson is sticking with her initial recommendations to close Emerson Elementary in Roxbury, the East Zone Early Learning Center in Dorchester, and the Engineering School and the Social Justice Academy, which share a building in Hyde Park. She also remains committed to converting Gavin Middle School in South Boston into a charter school.

The new plan calls for closing four additional schools: Fifield Elementary School and Middle School Academy in Dorchester, Farragut Elementary School in Mission Hill, and the Agassiz.

Absent from the new school closure list is the Roger Clap Elementary School in Dorchester, which Johnson initially wanted to shutter under her earlier proposal but decided to keep open. In an effort to spark an academic turnaround of that school, Johnson is proposing to convert it into an innovation school -- a new type of school established under state law this year that can operate with fewer restrictions from the teachers union.

Johnson's new proposal would also consolidate more small high schools that co-exist in the same buildings. The four high schools at the West Roxbury complex would be converted into two schools. Specifically, Urban Science Academy and Parkway Academy of Technology and Health would merge together, while Brook Farm Business & Service Career Academy and Media Communications Technology High School would be paired together.

The three high schools at the South Boston complex would become two schools by merging together Excel High School and Monument High School. The other school at the complex is the Odyssey.

These mergers are in addition to Johnson's recommendation to totally shutter the Hyde Park high school complex, which houses the Social Justice Academy and the Engineering School. A third school at that complex, Community Academy of Science and Health, will remain open, but will be relocated to another building, most likely the former Cleveland Middle School building.

The proposal also calls for two other mergers: the Alighieri and Umana in East Boston would unite, while Lee Academy Pilot School and Joseph Lee Elementary School, which share a building, would consolidate.

Johnson is pursuing the closings and the mergers as part of a plan to tackle a potential $63 million shortfall for the next school year. That plan, if approved by the School Committee, could save between $36 million and $49 million, including $10.6 million for the school closings and mergers.

The proposal does include some program expansions at the Holland Elementary, Trotter Elementary, King K-8, TechBoston Academy, and Dorchester Academy, all located in Dorchester.

Other changes are also in the works. Johnson intends to overhaul the way the city assigns students to elementary and middle school in an effort to reduce busing costs. Currently, the city is divided into three large sprawling geographic regions for student assignments. It's unclear what changes Johnson will seek, but hopes to have them implemented by Fall 2012.

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