Exam School Seat Access in Charlestown Not Likely to Go Down Tremendously

As the School Committee readies to vote on a plan to re-distribute how seats at the City’s three public exam schools are decided, Charlestown does look to lose access to some seats, but a review of Boston Public School (BPS) records shows the Town likely won’t lose access to large swaths of the seats it now occupies.

One of the key aspects of the recommended plan, which was to come to a vote before the School Committee Wednesday night after deadlines, is to allot seats this year by zip code according to the percentage of the school-age population. That would mean the percentage of available seats to Charlestown students would be at around 3 percent, as the latest Census data shows the Town has a school-age population of 3 percent.

In looking at data for exam school enrollment provided by BPS, only Boston Latin School (BLS) exceeds the 3 percent mark in Charlestown.

Charlestown students occupied 5.2 percent of the total BLS seats in 2020 enrollment figures, meaning that the Town would lose access to 2.2 percent of those seats.

For Boston Latin Academy, the Town would actually gain seats under the proposal, as Charlestown students make up only 2.3 percent of the BLA enrollment.

Meanwhile, at the John D. O’Bryant School, Charlestown would remain static, as the Town’s students make up 3.1 percent of the seats there.

In essence, access to exam school seats wouldn’t erode as much as first thought for Charlestown – which has one of the smallest school-age populations in the city. While the Town would lose access to seats at BLS, it would also gain access to seats at BLA and not lose any seats for O’Bryant.

In fact, the neighborhood with the biggest losses would be West Roxbury, which would lose large amounts of seats to the proposed program.

West Roxbury has 4.8 percent school-age population, but has 18.9 percent of the seats in BLS, and 9.1 percent of the seats in BLA. They register below the threshold at O’Bryant, where they have 3 percent. Under the proposal, West Roxbury students would lose access to 14.1 percent of its current allotment of seats at BLS.

Some parts of Dorchester would benefit, but not as much as has been cited, according to the statistics. For the Codman Square (02124) area of Dorchester, there is a school-age population of 13 percent- the largest in the city. Only 8 percent of children there go to BLS, so there would be a gain of seats for that school. However, 12.3 percent go to BLA, and 14.8 percent go to O’Bryant. So, there would be a minimal gain of seats there to BLA and a loss of seats there to O’Bryant.

The largest gains tend to be in neighborhoods like East Boston.

There is a 9 percent school-age population in Eastie, but the neighborhood is largely underrepresented in the exam schools.

At BLS, Eastie students make up only 4.8 percent of the enrollment, and only 6.1 percent at BLA. At O’Bryant, they come closer at 8.2 percent, but still fall below the school-age population. Eastie, under the plan, would gain seats in all three exam schools.

The School Committee seemed to embrace the plan prior to the vote, and it is supported by Supt. Brenda Cassellius also.

The second piece is the order in which students get to pick their school invitation, and Charlestown is likely to see a difference there as  that process is down according to median income per zip code. The lowest income picks first each round, and the highest last. Charlestown has the third highest median income in the city at $118,226.

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