A large group of Boston Public Schools (BPS) administrators told the community this month that the new middle school at Charlestown High starting next year would not only provide a more predictable educational path within 02129, but also would offer unique academic offerings like Pre-AP classes and the rigorous International Baccalaureate Middle Year Programme – as well as extensive extra-curricular activities.
It would not, however, threaten the programming or culture at the existing K-8 model at the Warren Prescott or Eliot School.
“We are the first group in the City with a new 7-12 high school in our backyard with the introduction of grades 7 and 8 at East Boston High School and Charlestown High School,” said BPS’s Tommy Welch.
“This is a big moment for me in my six years at BPS,” he continued. “I can’t wait to see what could come out of this in September 2021. We are leading the way.”
Welch and Supt. Brenda Cassellius told those at the online Jan. 7 meeting that with the introduction of a sixth grade at Harvard Kent School – making it a K-6 school, there was a need for a unique, rigorous pathway to seventh grade within the Town. Welch said that was one of the top priorities from parents since he came to the district, creating only one transition in a predictable way within a child’s educational path.
Right now is a time for school choice within BPS, and Welch and others in the district are encouraging sixth graders in the Town to choose the new middle school. The 7th grade will be made up of a brand new class, while the 8th grade would be made up mostly of students that are now at the Edwards Middle, which will close in June. Administrators specified that the logistics of the school would be to keep the middle school separate from the existing high school as is done across the city in other 7-12’s, including the three exam schools.
“It will have separate classrooms and separate lunches,” said BPS’s Ella Bruggeman. “There would be separation between the middle school and high school students.”
The key part of the new venture’s success would be to convince parents in the Town that the academics and opportunities would be challenging and welcoming. Charlestown High has long been an island in the neighborhood, with some 90 percent of the students coming from other neighborhoods – mostly Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. To date, it has not been a school known for academic rigor and is an open enrollment school that has had more than its share of academic struggles.
BPS officials painted a picture at the meeting though of a new creation at the middle school that would offer unique and challenging academics.
One of the offerings will be pre-Advanced Placement courses in all subjects, as well as the little-known International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. That programme is an internationally accepted rigorous course of study that is daunting. Students can start the course of study in middle school, and work their way through the official IB Diploma offering in high school.
“It is a popular and rigorous program,” said Welch. “Boston has had three exam schools so there has not been a large expansion of IB here. We do have it at the Josiah Quincy (Upper) School and the Snowden School now.”
There would also be advanced opportunities coming down from the high school, including the Pathways programs that exists at Charlestown High in partnership with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC). Those programs offer students the ability to earn college credits in high school, and actually attend college classes at BHCC in their later years, with the potential of earning an Associate’s Degree by the end of high school. That program could start preparation for students at the middle school, who could then transition to it at the high school.
Similarly, BPS officials said there would be music and band opportunities for students in the middle school, as well as varsity athletics at the high school. Officials said they are working to build loads of partnerships with organizations outside the school for performing arts, science, STEAM, visual arts and theatre – among others.
They predicted that in September they would have 60 students in the new 7th grade, and 100 students in the new 8th grade. They hope to build on that as time goes on and the programming solidifies.