Downtown Schools Coalition Reacts to the Announcement

March 22, 2013
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Like so many parents, we’re incredibly enthusiastic about the new school announced by Mayor Menino and Councilor Ross on Friday.  Just as the Mayor has been, we’ve been searching for sites for public schools.  In our neighborhoods, it’s very difficult to find any site that is available and works well for a school.  Finding a site with outdoor space has seemed impossible, so in a way they’ve done the impossible! 585 Commercial is a unique and remarkable location for a school.

As much as I might like to agree that Downtown Schools for Boston gets things done quickly – in many ways we are just carrying the baton in one leg of a long race.  Some of the parents in our group have been working on expanding downtown schools for over ten years, as have Councilor Mike Ross and former Representative Marty Walz.   And the downtown parents who, years ago, committed their families to the public schools deserve much of the credit.  Ten years ago, it took faith and imagination to see the potential of nearby public schools, such as the Eliot and Hurley schools.   Now it’s a reality for all to see, thanks to those parents, and the teachers, principals and leadership of the Boston Public Schools.  Their efforts are why so many parents are so interested in downtown public schools today

There are two things that are new about our effort.  First, we want to work with all of the downtown neighborhoods – from the Waterfront to the Fenway – and collaborate to develop a plan for schools across downtown.  We have always believed that we are all in this together.  Second, from the beginning we knew this was not about creating a single school, as the Brimmer Street effort was.  We began this effort expecting that it would be very hard, that it would take a high level of commitment over many years to get the public schools all of our downtown neighborhoods deserve.  That is as true today as it was a week ago.

This week has seen an important step forward, but there is still much to be done.  Families in the Fenway and west Back Bay would not have access to the new school under the new assignment plan.  Meanwhile, school options for the Fenway and west Back Bay have changed substantially under the new plan. There’s also a question of timing – many downtown families can’t wait until 2016 or later.  And thousands more new housing units are already under construction, especially in the emerging new Boston neighborhood around Downtown Crossing.

We’ll be holding two community meetings to discuss these issues and to hear from residents.   We’re meeing in the Fenway on Tuesday, April 2nd, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at the Boston Arts Academy, 174 Ipswich Street.  And we’ll be in the West End on Thursday, April 11th at 7:00 pm at the West End Museum, 150 Staniford Street.