Charlestown High School Moves to 7-12 Model, Provides Single Transition Within the Neighborhood

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the School Committee have voted to approve a plan that would transform Charlestown High School from a 9-12 school to a 7-12 school – providing a seamless transition to middle school particularly for parents at the K-6 Harvard-Kent School.

The plan goes into effect this September, meaning 6th grade parents will have the option starting this week of choosing Charlestown High as their middle school for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. Early registration for next year’s school term began on Tuesday, Jan. 5. To access the meeting on Zoom, click this Link.

The plan also includes making East Boston High into a 7-12 too, but there will only be an 8th grade next year. A community meeting on the transition will take place virtually on Thursday, Jan. 7, at 5:30 p.m.

Nate Kuder of BPS said the transition to a 7-12 at Charlestown High was one of five priority items that the district’s BuildBPS program continued to move forward in COVID-19 times. Last year was supposed to be the time when a robust conversation was to go forward about high school re-design and the idea of Charlestown High becoming a 7-12, but COVID prevented a lot of that discussion, and BPS felt it was necessary to move this one forward.

“One challenge we had with everything going on is we had a number of projects going into last year that were on an accelerated timeline,” said Kuder.

With the addition of a sixth grade to the Harvard Kent in September despite COVID – as well as in several East Boston schools – and the planned closure of the Edwards Middle in Charlestown this June, the district felt it was poised to move forward on the Charlestown High 7-12 expansion as well.

“That’s why Charlestown and East Boston High 7-12 expansion was moved forward for this year,” he said. “This was something we had been working with and they knew it was coming.”

Right now, the school is an empty slate, and is being created and teachers are being evaluated and hiring is about to get underway for the expansion. Part of the community meeting and input part will be to create a middle school that serves the needs of the community – and already Charlestown High Head of School Joel Stembridge has been actively recruiting in the Town for next year’s 7th grade.

“Our focus for this year is building the capacity we want to have at the school,” said Kudor. “Typically in Boston we talk about enrollment driving funding. In East Boston and Charlestown, we’re talking about building the right capacity first and then funding that forward.”

There are already 60 students going from 7th to 8th grade from the former Edwards Middle, and they will have priority at Charlestown High if they so choose, and preference at any other middle school with open seats. For the 7th grade, they are planning and recruiting – particularly locally.

“We are planning the 7th grade now and working very closely in particular with the Harvard Kent to make sure families know about this new choice,” he said. “This decision gave us clarity going into our planning process…We are trying to prevent having multiple transitions for students and families. We really think this will provide a more predictable pathway and not see kids exit early to leverage the extra grade.”

Harvard Kent Principal Jason Gallagher said it was potentially could be

“To be honest, we think it’s a really good opportunity for our students,” he said. “We added sixth grade this year…We did this to prevent kids from having to transition for one grade before their seventh grade year…To have a 7-12 in our neighborhood a couple blocks away at Charlestown High is an exciting opportunity for our students and families. We’re actually really excited about how excited Charlestown High is to do this. Joel has been great about communicating that they want to build a program to meet the needs of our kids.”

Gallagher said there are some parents who are hesitant about 7th graders joining a high school, but he said such a configuration presents so many more resources and opportunities. Some of those could include enhanced music, athletics and even the academic Pathways with Bunker Hill Community College that already exist in the high school.

“I think having these 7-12 opportunities available for our kids is a good thing,” he said. “What better 7-12 opportunity than one right here in the neighborhood.”

The new middle school at Charlestown High would also be open to 6th graders at the Warren Prescott School and the Eliot K-8 School. However, it isn’t expected to be as popular with those groups due to the fact that students can remain in those schools until 8th grade and many there also matriculate to the three exam schools in 7th grade too.

Kuder said they will use the community meeting on Jan. 7 and future meetings to help craft the new middle school and create something the community wants to see and will send their children to. He said they believe they can create a local high-quality, unique educational option that will be available to parents who don’t want to send their children to an exam school or for children that don’t get into an exam school.

He said they will be presenting their School Budget to the School Committee on Feb. 3, and that will have more details about hiring and capacity at the Charlestown High Middle School.

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