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Councilor says BPS plans to move O'Bryant School to shuttered West Roxbury building officials once said was about to collapse

City Councilor Julia Mejia (at large), said today BPS appears poised to announce it's moving the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science from Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury to the former West Roxbury Education Complex, next to a swamp on the edge of the city in a building that BPS officials ordered shut in 2019 because, they said at the time, it was filling with mold due to a roof that could not be replaced, atop a structure that looked ready to plunge to the ground.

Mayor Wu and School Superintendent Mary Skipper has scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday in front of the O'Bryant and the neighboring Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to "share their vision for Boston Public Schools high schools."

At a hearing today of the council's Ways and Means Committee on the city school budget for the coming fiscal year, Mejia asked a BPS official about what she said was the decision to move the O'Bryant, one of the city's three exam schools, to West Roxbury.

"Everybody in the community knows about it, because everybody's been blowing my phone up about it," Mejia said.

However, Samuel DePina, BPS deputy superintendent of operations, said he was "not in a position to talk about that right now."

In 2018, BPS officials described the state of the West Roxbury Education Complex, which at the time housed two high schools, in near apocalyptic terms: They said ISD was near condemning the building, that carpets were full of mold spurred by water pouring through a damaged roof, for which the state had rejected a proposed replacement in 2016 because of concerns the rest of the building might collapse under the weight of a new roof because of its own weakening, including capstones that seemed ready to fall on people entering or leaving the building.

BPS managed to make some repairs to the roof, but those were destroyed by a series of nor'easters in March of 2018, officials said.

In recent weeks, however, Mayor Wu has said the building - designed by the same architect and constructed around the same time as English High School in Jamaica Plain - could be renovated and re-used.

Despite the dire terms in which BPS officials spoke about the building before it closed in 2019 and the West Roxbury Academy and the Urban Science Academy dissolved, the building has continued to be used occasionally. Boston Police, for example, have used it for training programs.



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The police have been using the building (regularly, not occasionally, as Adam notes) for training police cadets for a few years now, for classroom and maybe tactical training. It has been clear for a long time that the original diagnosis was incorrect, and the fact the building might still be usable, in 2023, after the mandated years of neglect by Mahty's admin, is telling indeed.

Voting closed 35

With all the various issues surrounding BPS between busing

- my 2 bps kids get rides to and from school everyday since the buses aren't safe or reliable and last week my son's field trip to drumlin farm was cancelled when the bus didn't show up.

Buildings are mostly falling down, my daughter's school had mold so bad in the basement a few years ago it covered the chrome books and the kids couldn't use them , and the principal told teachers to shut up and stop complaining about it.

The school had a world class drama teacher for 7 years but she didn't get along with the principal so she left and there is no longer a drama program.

My daughter's class has gym in their classroom when it's too cold to go outside due to lack of space.

There is no music program - that was eliminated a few years ago so students could take gym and God forbid both are offered. no world languages are offered. No advanced classes are offered and I believe over half the students are not proficient in math and reading.

No money in the budget exists for a grant writer to fund some classes that suburban kids get.

Both campuses have enough outdoor space but it hasn't been updated in over a decade , since Meninos grandkids went there.

The teachers that stay year after year are amazing but the administration is noticeably absent and the school team leader from central BPS does not participate at all in any thing related to the school as far as I can tell.

Councilor Arroyo lives a few blocks from the school and shows almost no interest in helping it.

The principal and vice principal spend most of their daily time in meetings with parents about behavioral issues and don't have time to focus on education.

We're so frustrated with BPS, and most families with kids in our neighborhood send their kids to non BPS schools.

We'd gladly pay 25% more in taxes if the money went to improve the school buildings and fund more educational programs. So much time and effort is spent addressing behavioral issues or non English learners since the schools are asked to deal with home issues families can't get services for from the other city programs!

Voting closed 60

They just mismanage the fuck out of it.

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Is to WREC the O'Bryant?

I hope the O'Bryant will be able to keep their academic partnerships and internship programs despite the long drive out into the boondocks.

I bet the folks who loved the West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy feel real bad about being lied to by Laura Perille, Marty Walsh, and the ISD.

Voting closed 37

If you had to go to Summer School at BPS they sent you to the high school next to West Roxbury High further away from anything; Brighton High. It taught kids a lesson, learn or schlep to Brighton HS 90 minutes each way on the T for many from the city for a two hour class.

West Roxbury HS is closer to Canton HS than to East Boston HS.

Why are they sending kids to the periphery of the city when O'Bryant, from a transportation standpoint is smack dab in the middle of the city?

Do we get a rerun of Charlie Baker getting really, really, really mad (for the cameras) when a student is clipped on VFW Parkway because the DCR didn't plow the sidewalks?

Fenway Arts was rebuilt. Quincy Upper is getting a new school. Why not Roxbury?

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The city is filled with empty and half empty schools. These buildings are empty 80% of the time while homeless people put up tents faster than we can (humanely) take them down. Your comment doesn't even point out the charter schools building new schools on new expensive land while taking our tax dollars.

The city should not be allowed to have empty buildings while real-estate is so valuable. Charters should be compelled to buy or lease existing school buildings. Empty sites should be transformed into city housing.

Voting closed 12

Essentially/are condemned. So it’s not as easy as repurposing. You need to tear down and build new.

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So why wait?

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Not unless it’s ‘luxury’.

Also, BPS enrollment is declining year over year, but what happens if it starts increasing again and the city sold off all of their property to developers?

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They can build city housing too

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I agree with John Costello on this. It's a completely terrible decision.

Why are they sending kids to the periphery of the city when O'Bryant, from a transportation standpoint is smack dab in the middle of the city?

This might not be the reason, but it is inescapably the message: because they don't give a damn about the O'Bryant students.

Voting closed 33

So I'd guess 95% of the students who go there can't walk? By moving to WR, you at least spread out the school locations. Busing will be a factor so the walking won't matter there anyway but if they did it right they could do what an above poster said above and just have all WR/Roslindale kids go there before BLS or BLA.

Voting closed 7

This campus is in the middle of nowhere.

I mean, I like the area, but I'm also live "relatively" close to there and usually drive there when I am out that way. I knew a kid who went to Westie from Edward Everett Square. That's not an easy trip by bus.

Of course, a commuter rail station next door would help, but then again it would help in so many ways.

Voting closed 12

Busing will be a factor, as will rail. These days, all 7th-12th graders get their own T passes (for free!) and most use the T to get to school.

There's currently one city bus that goes anywhere near the WREC, the 36. The other option is taking the commuter rail out to West Roxbury and walking 1.4 miles. How are they going to get 1600 or so students there at 7:25 AM, from all over the city, each day?

The O'Bryant is right next to the Orange Line, the Commuter Rail, and the following bus lines: CT2, CT3, 8, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 28, 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, and 66. It is just a few blocks from the Green Line in one direction and Nubian in the other.

It makes no sense at all to move a citywide school from a central location served by seventeen routes to a remote location served by one route. The location only ever made sense as a neighborhood high school, which it never has been.

It is a disservice to the school, an insult to the students, and a waste of resources.

Voting closed 16

Bay state Conference looking to possibly take Boston Latin (and maybe now O’Bryant) in the future in an expansion. I’m guessing they are going to put one of these new 200 million dollar schools at WR and try to do what Newton North and Wellesley did and potentially join them with sports. Sports will keep many kids in the school system if it’s done right.

Bus routes and train stations are nice, but suburban looking high schools are going to be the new normal if I had to guess. BLS and BLA are still in the middle of the city if anyone wants to go there.

Voting closed 9

West Roxbury kids (or at least the ones who go to elementary schools in their local catchment) can't qualify for exam schools with the new bonuses added to all other neighborhoods. It's also a terrible location to walk to even if you are in the neighborhood.

Voting closed 4

The exam schools need to be centrally located. A high school in West Roxbury or Roslindale is a fine idea, but it should primarily serve students who live in that part of the city, not students from all over. There is one bus line that sort of serves the WREC area, but per the T's bus network redesign, that will soon no longer be the case. Unless the Orange Line is extended to VFW Parkway (it should be) or the Needham Line gets an infill stop at that location, it won't work for the vast majority of O'Bryant students.

Voting closed 27

West Roxbury High school should be renovated With guaranteed seats going to graduates of Roslindale and West Roxbury K to 8 schools. There is precedent for this as graduates of certain schools in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury are guaranteed seats at Dearborn stem Academy. The O’Bryant school should remain in a centrally located location as it attract students from all parts of the city.

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Is there a facilities issue at the current location? Are they planning to expand Madison Park? I'd definitely support expanding vo-tech education, but surely there is another centrally located spot where the O'Bryant can go. What about the parcel next to Whittier Choice Housing and across the street from the Police Station?

Voting closed 17

The space next to Whittier housing is part of Parcel P3.
Speaking of Parcel P3, is that really going to be developed this time or will all plans go in the crapper again?

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There have been so many extravagant plans that spectacularly crashed, I don't think we should wait for the miracle development. If a school around the corner needs a new space, let's use that space.

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“When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Son, the strongest castle in all of England.” - Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Really surprised no one beat me to this…

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