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City Council votes to oppose moving O'Bryant School to West Roxbury; calls on BPS to look at alternatives

The Boston City Council voted 10-2-1 today to formally oppose BPS's plans to move the O'Bryant School from its current location on Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury to a rebuilt West Roxbury Education Complex on VFW Parkway, saying that location, almost in Dedham, is just too far way for many students and that BPS has failed to really take into account the concerns of O'Bryant students, parents and teachers, let alone possible alternatives.

The vote came in the form of a resolution, so BPS and Mayor Wu, who say the new school would finally give the city's math-and-science exam school actual working science labs and room for more students, are free to ignore it.

But one after the other, councilors said BPS plans for shuttle buses and timetables for getting students to the isolated West Roxbury campus are completely unrealistic. Councilor Gabriela Coletta (East Boston, Charlestown, North End) all but snorted at a BPS estimate that students from East Boston could get to the other side of the city in just 48 minutes. In fact, she challenged BPS officials to ride with her on the T from Maverick Square - not even Orient Heights, she said - to the old West Roxbury High, via two subway lines and a bus, in anything under 90 minutes.

Councilors said the distance and time would prove equally insurmountable to parents trying to get to teacher conferences and sporting events, especially parents who work two or three jobs.

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury), an O'Bryant alum whose sister went school in West Roxbury, said she knows from personal experience the idea of shuttle buses from Forest Hills and other transportation hubs wouldn't work - she said West Roxbury had a shuttle bus, but she sometimes wound up helping her get to school if she missed one or it didn't come.

Fernandes Anderson said it makes no sense to move the school from its current location in the heart of the city and surrounded by colleges and tech facilities that could provide valuable career pathways to a location not really near anything - with more on the way, what with the Benjamin Franklin Institute and new life-sciences labs in the pipeline for nearby Nubian Square.

In fact, she had a proposal: Move the Boston Police headquarters on Tremont Street in Roxbury to West Roxbury, where police could have their own secure facility and convert the current BPD building into the O'Bryant's new home.

Councilor Erin Murphy (at large) and Brian Worrell (Dorchester) said BPS really needs to look more closely at other possible ways to get the O'Bryant the new space and facilities it needs without making students shlep to a school not really near much except fast-food restaurants, car dealerships and a sex-toys shop - starting with the current O'Bryant location itself, where they said BPS should look at building up and adding new floors.

Several of the councilors said they were moved - and distressed - listening to O'Bryant parents at a hearing that last until 11 p.m. yesterday say they felt left out by the BPS decision process, which has included several meetings at the West Roxbury site but only one at the O'Bryant.

Councilor Julia Mejia (at large), who introduced the resolution, said it is "really dangerous" to simply throw out the West Roxbury idea and say it's the only possible alternative.

"This administration, from what I have seen, continues to fail to meet the moment when it comes to community engagement and creating opportunity for people to feel heard," she said.

Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan), another O'Bryant alum, and Sharon Durkan (Back Bay, Fenway, Beacon Hill, Bay Village, Mission Hill) voted against the resolution. They said that even with the transportation issues, they fell West Roxbury would, finally, give O'Bryant the classrooms and facilities it deserves.

Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune (at large), said she understands the frustration of the O'Bryant community, voted "present." She said she was not yet at the point where she's absolutely convinced the negatives of the move would outweigh its benefits and that holding another hearing on the issue would be beneficial.

Watch the discussion:


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Comments

With where it is now?

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TFA: Move the Boston Police headquarters on Tremont Street in Roxbury to West Roxbury, where police could have their own secure facility and convert the current BPD building into the O'Bryant's new home.

The current Madison Park campus is 900,000 square feet of building space. Police Headquarters is 1/4 the size of that. Even if O'Bryant is 400,000 square feet on its own, she would want a new school 1/2 the size of the existing building? What? Is there some sort of building code which uses the Hermione's bag's physics for construction?

That being said, moving a school at the near geographic center of the city steps from an Orange Line station to a place which is closer to Canton HS than to City Hall could be one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard from this administration.

Stop the madness. Rebuild there. Somerville did and other towns have used other parts of the campus to build in current locations. Let's stop the fantasy that the WR campus is an easy place to get too unless you live in West Roxbury.

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That campus honestly isn't even particularly convenient to get to for people living in Westie! VFW parkway is hell to cross on foot and not even convenient in car - the Spring/VFW intersection is a nightmare in all directions - and that's literally the only way to get there, because the school is surrounded on all other sides by a dump, a graveyard, and a home depot. The only people who could feasibly walk to the school without risking getting hit by a car twice a day are the ones living in those new overpriced apartments by home depot and even then, I've seen some wild shit on that access road with all the work vans trucking in and out of that parking lot.

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Councilor Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) brought safety up as well - specifically an incident during the Romney era when DCR didn't plow the sidewalks and a kid got killed walking in, not next to, VFW Parkway trying to get to West Roxbury High.

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I had to cross that Spring Street VFW Parkway intersection every day to get to the raggedy 36 bus. Seriously took my life in my hands Every. Single. Day!

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has plenty of problems which reflect our collapsing society, but this one would be self made.

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I don't want to make assumptions. Can you specify who were the two who voted in favor?

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It was Arroyo and Durkan, although technically they voted no on the resolution (as, um, mentioned in the story), saying the benefits of a new school there outweighed the disadvantages.

Louijeune voted "present" because she hasn't gotten to that point in her thinking.

Baker, Breadon, Coletta, Fernandes Anderson, Flaherty, Flynn, Lara, Mejia, Murphy and Worrell voted for the resolution, i.e., saying the West Roxbury plan is no good.

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I misread the sentence. I mistook "they voted against the resolution" for 'they voted against the proposal.' My bad. Thank you.

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I never thought I would see a smart and rational decision come out of a City Council meeting on this move but alas I have been proven wrong.

Sharon Durkin continues to show she is unfit for this role.

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Talk to Sharon for more than 5 minutes about any issue in her district and it is clear she is in over her head.

Sharon probably has the shortest commute of any member of the Council, just a stroll (or more likely an Uber) down the Hill. Someone who never went to school in Boston (high school, College, or otherwise) and has no kids in BPS has no appreciation of what it is like to get to school on time with the T or by school bus. It is doubtful that she would consult her constituents about their position on the issue.

Durkin goes where the Wu wind blows...

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Zero confidence in her or her inept staff. When is the next election??

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Sadly, this does seem to be how she decides to vote.

Let’s see if that starts to change, as she hears from her constituents.

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When WREC aka West Roxbury Education Complex was closed, the agreement was that, should it reopen, it would be a Traditional Boston Public School that accepted students citywide, NOT an Exam School, NOT a Pilot school, or any school with a "selective" student population!

In the majority/minority City of Boston, you cannot have an exam school in West Roxbury because it is 71.8% White, it's just that simple!

My suggestion, reopen the WREC Campus as a City-wide, Traditional 7-12 or 9-12 Boston Public School with a concentration on Sports and the Sports industry.

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Wu wants a future system where every exam school is "the same" and that if you want to go to an exam school you go to the one closest to where you live. If you live in Roxbury you go to Boston Latin. If you live in West Roxbury you go to the O'Bryant. I know about the STEM component but I think Wu wants to give a dig to BLS in the end.

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Lake Wubegon is filled to the brim with optimism that all students are the same and all the kids can get through Latin....if they just lower the standards to that of just any other school.

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I think you're reading into it too much. Wu simply saw an empty building (WREC) and wants to use it. That's the reasoning. It's only coincidental that the O'Bryant needs a new home, and is expendable.

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The City has enough money to build a new HS where Madison Park is. But instead they are just going to put it in WR. They could have easily has said WR is a temporary spot until the new HS is built, but they aren't doing that.

I mean that's just my take.

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Something tells me if the city/state were actually serious about urban planning and extended the orange line out there before building hundreds of housing units and proposing new schools the reaction would be different. As it stands this is absolutely a transit desert at the edge of the city and in the most suburban and whitest part of Boston. There is a reason parents are upset, but it didn't have to be like this.

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