Supt. Brenda Cassellius has sped up the process by one year in expanding sixth grades in East Boston, thus opening up the Edwards Middle for more Charlestown seats earlier than expected.
The Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced a plan late last week to expand six East Boston schools to K-6 configurations by the 2020 school year (next September), which is one year earlier than expected. With most students at the Edwards, which is a Grade 6-8 school, coming from East Boston, that opened up the Charlestown building for local uses earlier than expected. As part of her plan, the Edwards will not enroll a sixth-grade class in 2020.
“Every decision we make must be rooted in community partnership and equity,” said Dr. Cassellius. “These decisions reflect the many conversations I’ve had over the last six months with families, school staff and community members. These changes will provide families with more predictability from Kindergarten to high school graduation and better position our schools to serve our students.”
In Charlestown, the news was greeted with enthusiasm, particularly for parents of young children who are having difficulty landing seats for their children in the two neighborhood schools – the Harvard-Kent and the Warren-Prescott.
Monica Roberts, BPS chief of engagement, said the plan will allow the Edwards to phase out by 2021 – opening up the potential for more elementary capacity in the neighborhood, if that is what the community wants.
“The current would be to phase it out by the end of next school year,” said Roberts. “There would be no sixth-grade class in 2020, and the seventh and eighth-graders would continue to go there in 2021. By the 2021-22 school year, we’ll have the eighth-graders pick a high school and the seventh graders will pick a 7-12 school as part of our new alignment. We hope to be out to the community this winter and next spring to have conversations with the community about the future of the Edwards.”
Roberts said it should come as no surprise that the Edwards Middle would be phased out, as that has been announced previously. However, Supt. Cassellius has made it a priority under her reconfiguration plan to accelerate the plan for expanding East Boston schools to sixth grade. That also moves up the availability of the Edwards School – which most parents and educators in the Town believe will eliminate the issues with the headaches of school choice in Charlestown.
“We were planning on implementing these changes in 2021-22 school year,” said Roberts. “However, when Dr. Cassellius came on and began talking with the community, she decided she wanted to look at having East Boston move forward. Dr. Cassellius wanted us to continue assessing capacity and we found we were able to accelerate East Boston schools because of the physical capacity in the buildings to do the K-6 extensions. That moved up the plan one year ahead of time.”
Roberts said the Edwards plan would come under the citywide discussions around creating 7-12 school pathways – known as the high school re-design process. That will begin in December, and at that time the question of the Edwards will be brought to the Town.
“During that time, we’ll discuss where the Edwards sits with the K-6 and 7-12 model,” she said. “We’ll be having that conversation with the community then.”
Cassellius was expected to present this plan to the School Committee Wednesday night, which came after deadlines. More information on the process and meetings to come is expected after Thanksgiving.