Councilor Edwards Questions Costs of Busing Students to Charlestown

Busing students to the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown from Eastieis costing the school district more than $400,000 per year, and Councilor Lydia Edwards is leading a charge to reconsider that practice sooner rather than later – a move that could free up valuable space in the Town for Charlestown students.

In a letter from Edwards and Councilors AnnissaEssaibi George, Michelle Wu, Michael Flaherty and Council President Andrea Campbell, there is a call to end the practice of busing East Boston students to Charlestown’s Edwards Middle School – where almost 90 percent of the students are not from the Town.

“With the pending acquisition of a building on Paris Street and declining enrollment at East Boston High leading to available classroom space, we believe that BPS is able to begin transitioning East Boston students from Charlestown schools to local schools in East Boston,” read the letter. “For example, East Boston High has indicated that they have a two-year plan to transition the school into a 7-12 school, which would both help save funding for the school and save the district on transporting East Boston middle school students to Charlestown.”

In a recent Council Budget hearing, BPS Transportation confirmed that, based on routes in October, the Eastie to Charlestown busing costs are about $380,000 annually. With two routes added since then, Edwards said the costs are now in excess of $400,000.

“As far as we’re concerned, we think there is a quick solution here,” she said. “There is opportunity here. I think people in Charlestown are saying they don’t have enough K-0 and K-1 seats. We know the Edwards Middle School is 80 percent East Boston kids. At the same time, we have the opportunity to use space in Eastie to streamline the student experience back to East Boston. You keep the middle school in East Boston, save money on transportation and then you open up a lot of space for Charlestown families in the Edwards. To me, that’s how you save money and create more opportunities for education.”

The Boston City Council is currently reviewing the FY20 budget, including the BPS budget. In addition to advocacy within Boston Public Schools, the Council recently endorsed legislation filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-DÍaz, the PROMISE Act, to reform the formula for statewide education funding. Among other changes, the PROMISE Act would ensure adequate resources for low-income and English Language Learner students.

For nearly a year, parents and school leaders at the Harvard-Kent have been advocating for an expansion to sixth grade, taking their school from a K-5 to a K-6. That, they have said, allows for a much easier transition for families so they don’t have to scramble to find a one-year option in sixth grade.

Meanwhile, parents at the Warren-Prescott have been clamoring for additional space for kindergarten seats, as well as to maintain budget allocations for programs like art and languages – something that is threatened due to a lack of space in their building.

That issue was brought up by an active group of parents at Wednesday’s Coffee Hour with Mayor Martin Walsh and new Supt. Brenda Cassellius. The group debated the need for more space and increased funding for nearly 20 minutes.

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