Two years ago Mayor Martin Walsh committed $1 billion to Boston Public School (BPS) buildings to catalyze long-term investment. This commitment launched a series of BuildBPS workshops throughout Eastie.
The workshops were part of a robust community collaboration process in Eastie to guide ongoing and long-term decision making. While the city has started with a $13 million investment in new school furniture and technology to promote 21st-century learning and teaching methodologies, residents and educators working in Eastie’s BPS schools discussed their wants and needs for schools here.
One issue that kept coming up during the workshops was Eastie’s growing population and the long waitlists at some of the neighborhood’s more popular schools.
At a recent morning BuildBPS workshop at the Mario Umana Academy, Interim Academic Superintendent of Alternative Schools Tommy Welch said BPS will be moving forward with a big announcement in coming weeks concerning Eastie schools.
“We will announce that BPS will commit to building a new elementary school in Eastie,” said Welch. “We will begin having initial conversations with the community in the upcoming months and everything goes well a new school will be built here in three to four years.”
The elementary school will most likely be sited on a City-owned parcel on Paris Street near the former Salesian Boys & Girls Club that is now being converted to affordable housing.
Welch added that BPS will also committed to building a second facility that will house a 7 to 12th grade school.
“That project will be a little further down the road, probably six to seven years,” said Welch.
There’s no location as of yet for the junior high to high school facility, but at the meeting residents like City Councilor Lydia Edwards said she’d like to see HYM, who is developing the 161-acres Suffolk Downs site into a mixed-use development, to be at the table. Edwards said she’d like to explore the possibility of perhaps siting a school at Suffolk Downs if HYM is open to the idea.
As a result of BuildBPS the city’s Facilities Management Division was merged into the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department (PFD) to create a new division to manage school facility projects and interface with the Massachusetts School Building Authority and other external entities. This created the structural and organizational efficiencies Boston needed to meet its major capital investments and facilities improvement goals.
“When it is officially announced this will be major news for Eastie,” said Welch. “BPS has committed to building nine new schools throughout the city and Eastie will get two of those nine new facilities.”
As for the BuildBPS process in Eastie, Welch said that he was pleased to see a high level of community engagement.
“Teams have brainstormed to generate ideas that were relatively inexpensive, as well as huge capital projects,” said Welch. “Some of the proposed ideas included: the addition of a grade level at some schools, creating feeder patterns among smaller schools, completely renovating existing buildings, adding a middle school to East Boston, and building a new high school.”