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Eliot School parents launch on-line petition calling for expansion

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  February 6, 2012 10:30 AM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

The North End’s Eliot School has become increasingly popular but is running out of space.

Parents of children attending the North End’s John Eliot K-8 School have launched a petition drive calling on the school department to expand the school.

A group of neighborhood parents circulated a paper petition calling for the addition of an additional “strand” — one more class of students per grade — following last year’s school assignment lottery. But this petition is focused on physically expanding the crowded school, something parents have previously requested and that School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson has said on several occasions the school department was working to do.

Starting last fall, the nearby North Bennet Street School made three classrooms available for the use of the Eliot School, but parents contend that the school is still far too crowded, with its music room, art room, and library sacrificed to make space for classrooms as the school adds another class each year due to a strand added in 2008.

“There are 320 students currently enrolled at the Eliot School ... with a wait list of more than 400 children,” states the petition at Change.org. “Schools all across Boston are crowded; providing more space for one school alleviates pressure in other schools.”

The petition was created by the Eliot School Family Council, the school’s official parent group, and had been signed by 240 people at 10:30 Monday morning, shortly after a member of the council sent out a message requesting signatures through an email listserv for North End parents.

The petition points out that the need for space will only increase in the 2012 – 2013 school year, as the first students from the strand added in 2008 move up to third grade. Once a troubled school, the Eliot has become increasingly desirable to families in the North End and throughout the city as its test scores have improved under the guidance of popular Principal Traci Walker Griffith.

Parents renewed their call for a solution to the overcrowding early this year, as the city issued a request for proposals on two buildings it owns in the North End. Some parents have said that any disposition of those properties that does not include an expansion plan for the Eliot School is unacceptable.

Neighborhood parent Tara Shea wrote on the petition page that the Eliot School is the main reason her family remains in Boston.

“If space is not secured for the Eliot (resulting in further program cuts, overcrowding, and possibly reassignment to a different school) we will have to move out of the city possibly out of state to provide our daughter with the comprehensive education that she deserves,” wrote Shea, whose daughter attends kindergarten at the school.

Other signers left messages saying they had children in the school or hoped their children would be able to attend when they reach school age, or that their children had been unable to get a seat in the school but hoped an expansion might improve their chances, or the chances of other North End children.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow the North End on Twitter: @YourNorthEnd.

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