Charter school formally seeks approval for new building on Roslindale/West Roxbury line

Roxbury Preparatory Charter School yesterday filed a "letter with intent" with the BPDA that signals it will soon file detailed plans to replace auto sales and repair buildings on Belgrade Avenue and West Roxbury Parkway with a three-story school for 800 students.

The proposed school, on a one-acre site, would replace temporary high-school quarters for which it has a three-year lease at the old Most Precious Blood School in Hyde Park.

Roxbury Prep is proposing 66 on-site parking spaces, with 20 at street level and the rest in an underground garage. It says it expects most of its students to get to and from the building on public transit - either via the Needham Line's Bellevue station next door to the site or via buses that run up and down Belgrade.

In addition to the BPDA, the project will need zoning-board approval.

In its letter to the BPDA, the school says it now has sign off from at least 200 near-by residents. Its initial meeting with neighbors last year did not go well, with residents complaining about both traffic and the idea of hordes of teenagers roaming their streets.

Roxbury Prep letter of intent (878k PDF).

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So what your saying is

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Parents in the area should try to get their kids in this school. No reason not to try.

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Voting is closed. 38

OMG

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Almost 1/3 of students suspended, ya i would want this in my neighborhood. Im sure they'll be very respectful of their neighbors!

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Or

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Parents could impart upon their children that they should not be doing things that could lead to suspensions. It looks like that is something that most of the students, and remember that the assessment covers all grades, understand. Of course, some parents like the idea of sending their kids to a place with strong discipline. Reminds me of growing up in Catholic schools, though there is probably less hitting at Roxbury Prep.

Conversely, the MCAS scores of the 10th graders (the group that would be occupying this site) are a little bit better than state average, so kids could definitely do worse than going to this school.

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O great

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I was on the Needham Line yesterday around 4pm when Charter School kids got on, SCREAMING, acting like complete idiots and finally fighting. The conductor acted as if this was normal behavior and said nothing.

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Voting is closed. 23

Typo

You left out the word 'black' in the sentence about resident complaints about 'hordes of teenagers'

As we saw in the Question 2 debate - white middle class people who send their kids to exam schools are very happy to fight any attempt to provide better options to minority kids in the city so I guess it's won't just be the lace curtain WR crowd who will oppose this though.

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except that

a majority of people color voted against question 2. But you're about the nimby hordes comment.

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Agree and Disagree

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Yes, the general neighborhood response to this school has certainly brought out a lot of NIMBY, racist vagaries about "those kids". No argument there. The school already exists, so it's not adding to the cap in any way, and as far as I can tell it isn't going to increase its seats there.

I was strongly NO on Q2 and continue to push back against any more public money going from BPS to Charters, but this school already exists and is simply moving. So I don't think it's fair to conflate "white middle class" opponents of Q2 with the NIMBYs who don't like the idea of black teens hanging out near Holy Name.

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I guess we'll see

I didn't say anything about fair but I'd be willing to bet these are two primary themes in the presumed opposition to this school that will come up in community meetings about the proposal.

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Please be specific

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How have charters cost BPS a single dollar in the past 15-20 years. BPS gets 35 cents of every dollar from time immemorial even though it's 15% smaller over the past 15 or so years. Per capita spending is up about triple the rate of inflation as a result and 80% of the heads added to city payroll since the dot com bubble burst are BPS employees even though the system has about 7500 fewer students - and almost 10k fewer if you exclude preK programs which are very cheap to fund.

How does this "transfer" take place? Statistically at least, the best thing to ever happen to BPS was charter schools.

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Expenses

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The BPS population is not the same as it was 20 years ago, and great strides have been made in identifying and intervening with students who require extra services, IEPs, etc. Those students cost more to educate, period. It's the law, and you can't shortchange them without being sued.

The state has underfunded the reimbursement schedule every year, so districts are not compensated as they were supposed to be. This has a direct impact on individual district schools every year.

Honestly, we don't have to have this debate again, because we all went through it in 2016 and voters decided the issue.

We can certainly argue and perhaps agree that the BPS central office has positions whose funding would be better spent on individual school budgets and staff. But no one who has set foot into a BPS school will find that there is a bevy of staff just milling around -- these schools are operating on shoestring budgets and cutting positions annually.

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Please answer the question

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1) How has BPS lost money to charters? As you note - we "settled" this in 2016 because the teacher's union successfully disseminated complete BS about how charters cost the public schools money - when in fact that is not the case unless you have specific new information to the contrary.

2) And for comparison on the other issue you note about spending in high-need districts - here are some other comparable big city district average per pupil spending per the state website (2016):

$20,244 Boston
$15,495 Springfield
$14,644 Fall River
$14,492 Worcester
$13,785 Lynn
$13,251 New Bedford

Our demographics are probably better than most of those cities - so how are we "shortchanging" our kids when most big cities in Mass spend less than $15k per kid - but we spend $20k?

Why isn't anyone suing those districts?

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Okay

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Let's start from the top.

Every student comes to their district with a certain amount of funding, as calculated by both the state's Foundation Budget, the locality's own school budget, etc. Certain students carry a smaller number with them, certain students carry bigger numbers, based on SPED, ELL, IEP, poverty, age, etc. The state's own calculation for the Foundation Budget hasn't been updated in 25 years, in which time a lot has changed in how we address children with high academic needs. So more kids on IEPs, more ELL students, more students in poverty (because while we keep getting richer per capita, the wealth gap is widening), yet the funding calculation has not changed. Stay tuned to the Senate Ways and Means bill to see if they fix this -- it's a high profile issue on Beacon Hill this year.

Students who leave a district school for a charter carry their state funding with them. However, as was pointed out countless times in the Q2 debate, taking 10% of a classroom's budget away does not leave the remaining students with 90% of their building, teachers, support staff, heating costs, etc. So the State is supposed to reimburse districts on a graduated scale for the students that leave a district for a charter. There is a chart for the reimbursement schedule, except the legislature has not funded the reimbursement, so the money does not get to those remaining 90% of a class's students. Instead, they have to do the same with less money. Every year. And of course this doesn't even begin to touch the students who are counseled out of their charter school, back into their district school, while the charter keeps the money they brought when they enrolled for the year.

And I'm not sure, but it seems like you're suggesting Boston should follow Worcester, Springfield, Fall River, etc. in underfunding their education. Those towns and cities require even more state aid, and aren't getting it. It's not a race we want to be involved in, trying to cut to the quick on how cheaply we can educate our kids.

Also, for what it's worth, Brockton IS going to sue the state most likely, and it's a case they will probably win. The original Foundation Budget was born out of a lawsuit, and it may require another one to actually update it for 21st Century standards if Beacon Hill can't figure it out on their own.

The long and short of it is that things cost money in society. Many BPS buildings were built 100 years ago. They have lead in their pipes. They are quite literally falling apart. School staffs are required to meet a number of certification requirements for a student population that is more complex to educate every year. Eventually we have to decide whether we want to give kids in Boston, Springfield, Brockton, Worcester, etc. the education and financial support they deserve, or whether they should sit in their rotting buildings with budgets cut to the bone because they don't live in Lexington or Weston.

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Except it doesn't work that way

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Boston is so far ahead of the foundation spending they just ignore it. They pool all the money they collect and give 35% (+/- about 1%) to BPS. This has been true for at least 20 years.

I agree - the state should pay what they promised for the charter schools - but it won't make a material difference in the school budget - and the city will still only give 35 cents of each dollar to BPS.

So how do we fund the charters? Well - it's hidden is an account called state assessments with what we pay as a community for the MBTA. Charter assessments take up about 6% of the budget - and effectively not a dime has ever come out of the school budget - but it does keep us from doing everything else we need to do as a city - police, fire, EMT, public works, transportation and lots more where headcounts have not materially budged in 15 years even though we have almost 100,000 more residents.

I have long argued on this forum that BPS needs to learn how to make due with about $18k per student as an internal study found a year or two ago. With a really sharp pencil we should be able to get the job done with $17k - and still have state of the art facilities, music, athletics, art and more.

Schools are important - but we still have to do all that other stuff.

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One, two, three

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A) let collective bargaining agreements run out and then no raises for 2-3 years in total comp - salary plus benefits costs.

B) implement the changes of the blue ribbon panel.

C) adjust staffing and budgets annually for the annual 1% drop in student poulation

A saves you about 4-5% and B saves you about 10%. Drops the BPS budget to about 30% of the budget instead of 35% over a period of 5-7 years.

C is a bonus.

Simple, relatively painless affordable and done.

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Hmm

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A) Always comes back to the teachers. Does BPS have higher-than-average salaries, sure. However I have to say they also have higher-than-average certifications, experience with high-needs students, and perhaps even skill than teachers in other districts. You may want to just drop a bunch of TFA folks with 6 weeks training in their place, but it doesn't mean it's good for the students. (And no, i'm not a teacher, BTU member etc)

B) You mentioned this before, and I'd love to read it. What commission? The internal facilities report? The superintendent transition report?

Now, could you convince me that there are a number of overlapping positions in the Bolling Building and that political patronage costs the system money in the bureaucracy? Absolutely.

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Not just teachers

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EVERYONE (and half the BPS employees are not teachers)

and it's not just salaries. It's pensions, health care, and other benefits. Pensions add about 10% to the cost of salaries and healthcare is like $20k per employee.

You'll change your mind about the importance of education to the city when you are having a heart attack in Eastie and the only ambulance on duty in the area is already en route to MGH.

And let's be serious. While the rest of the world hasn't gotten raises to speaknof in years, city workers across the board have gotten raises every year, plus maintained most of their medical bennies and still have pensions. Not getting a raise for a couple of years won't kill anybody.

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Voting is closed. 19

Race concerns

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Speaking for myself and many of the neighbors in my neighborhood, right around the corner from the proposed school, we are happy we live in a pretty diverse neighborhood. You should walk around our neighborhood before accusing us of not wanting a school because of race,
Our issues have nothing to do with race. At all of the meetings that we have attended the major reason for concern was the discussed 10% of students who might drive to school but the school will not have spaces for them!. We do not want 80 more cars parked on our streets in our neighborhood, it can get difficult enough with all of the commuter rail riders who currently park in our neighborhood. We support the Mayor's quest to continue to build housing along the commutter rail and T. Housing always must meet parking space ratios per unit and neighborhoods can review the ratios as part of an open review process. It would be envisoned that a number of the housing units that could be built would be for income eligible individuals. As is the case with all of our newer neighborhood housing on Belgrade Avenue, the first floor offers increased opportunities for more restaurants, businesses and stores which can be supported by our neighborhood residents..

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Voting is closed. 22

10%? LOL

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There's no way 10% are driving to school. Teenage car access in this city is not significant enough for that kind of number. That said, if it's a valid estimate, there is an easy solution -- resident permit parking and/or two hour restrictions for anybody else.

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Location

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This is just a horrible location for a school, right at the intersection.

I know what ppl will bring up holy name/cross (whatever it is) at the rotarty but that is actually up and away from the real traffic.

I'd rather see some residential construction at this location

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It's not often you see

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It's not often you see someone clown him/herself.

Then again .... 7 'thumbs ups.'

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Zoning

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God only knows what has leeched into the land from that auto shop. I have a feeling there is going to be more to come on that front.

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Voting is closed. 35

I say Roslindale ...

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When the zoning along Belgrade Avenue was updated a few years ago, that parcel was included as part of Roslindale.

One thing I have learned about neighborhood borders is that Zip codes are deceptive and horrible. 02121 is basically a Dorchester Zip code, but it goes almost to Egleston Square (and don't get me started on how far south 02118 goes in the Newmarket Square area).

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I smell a fight brewing

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But as a counter, adding “West” to the school’s name could work (ignoring, of course, the name of the closest private school to this site.)

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The opposite of the problem that Boston Collegiate had!!

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It used to be called South Boston Harbor Academy, but found parents of color of a certain age were hesitant to apply to a school with South Boston in its name. Rebranded as BCCS and viola!!!

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The community gets a new school!

That is great news!

I have to commute and hope I don't hit more traffic though. So for truly selfish reasons I hope this isn't impacted along a major commuting route.

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It will

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It will boil down to hundreds of kids hanging out at a commuter stop in a residential area.

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Residential area

Is that supposed to be code for something?

Because pretty much all commuter rail stops are in residential areas. It's sort of the point of them.

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I kind of have to disagree

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I'll refer you to Miles for what one finds at commuter rail stations, but the stop before this and the stop after are much less residential. The side of the tracks where the platform is at this stop is surrounded by housing (the other side being the proposed site of the school and, well, more housing.)

Even with my lily white high school, I can see the issue of having a bunch of kids hanging out waiting for the train. That said, this is resolvable. Time the end of school to a period roughly 15 minutes before an inbound train comes. Sure, they'll be stragglers with afterschool activities, but that's a subset.

Also, what about the 4 bus lines that stop right at the school?

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Great reference

Could you link to the page on Miles that shows commuter rail stops? I'm only finding MBTA stops.

Hmm, this school would be near the Bellevue stop, right? Looks like houses on one side, light industrial (?) on the other. Preceded by Roslindale Village, which is houses on one side, commercial on the other. Followed by Highland, which is houses on one side, mixed commercial and residential on the other.

Nope, don't see your point.

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Commuter rail stops are at the bottom

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And Roslindale Village Station is right in Roslindale Square. The platform at Highland is on the commercial side, right down to people using the parking lot to do Roche Brothers runs before the holidays.

Now West Roxbury is the most residential of the Boston stops on the branch. It’s a crazy station. That said, Bellevue is a close second.

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Sure about that?

The distance between a stopped Needham Line train and the closest residence is about half the distance at Roslindale Village that it is at Bellevue.

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Maps

They're easy to use.

I've never in my life stood at Bellevue, but it's easy to see how far the houses are from the tracks: no closer than is typical.

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I stood at Bellevue a week ago

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The houses are relatively close to where people wait for trains. Hence, the gripe has some merit (though overall I think the school proposal is a good one, and I agree that there might be a racial element to the opposition to the school.)

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Do school kids get free

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Do school kids get free passes for the commuter rail the way they do the T and Busses? Will a good chunk of these kids take the train straight to Bellevue, realistically, or will they be getting onto the same overcrowded buses at forest hills that have become de-facto school buses full of screaming teenagers that blow past anyone trying to get to work?

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Assuming they're the same as the ones BPS kids get ...

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Then, yes, they work on commuter rail, at least up to a certain zone, but definitely for that stop (daughter was able to travel all the way to the end of the Needham Line with her pass; just to see what was there - not much, she discovered).

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Trader Joes

There's a Trader Joes in Needham so it's not a total wasteland.

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Location