Fifield Elementary added to school closure list, Clap Elementary spared

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Dec. 2, 2010

Boston schools chief Carol Johnson reversed course Thursday night, proposing to keep open the Roger Clap Elementary School.

The Clap would become an "innovation school," operating similarly to a charter school and providing more administrative flexibility at traditional public schools. The Clap, which would become the city's first "innovation school," was originally slated to close under plans proposed by Superintendent Johnson earlier this fall.

Johnson submitted on Thursday evening revised plans, which added Fifield Elementary School to the list of proposed school closings, to the city’s School Committee at English High in Jamaica Plain.

The plans for fall 2011 come as the district faces a $60 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year and 5,600 empty seats across the school system.

Plans for Dorchester’s East Zone Learning Center are unchanged; Johnson is expected to continue to propose the school’s closure. School officials say the East Zone school, originally the central kitchen for the entire school system, was never meant to be a long-term early learning center for children.

The McLellan St. building of Middle School Academy, which has less than 10 students, will be closed and the students will be moved to the new UP Academy, an in-district charter middle school serving grades 6 through 8, in South Boston. UP Academy is being created through the closure of the Gavin Middle School.

School officials are continuing to push a merger between the Lee Academy Pilot School and the Lee Elementary School. Lee Academy will be a school that covers K-0 through first grade. Lee Elementary, which is in the same building as Lee Academy, will include grades two through eight. Lee Elementary is currently a kindergarten through fifth grade school.

It’s the second time Johnson is tweaking her plans for Lee Academy. Parents say the changes save little to no money, and have pleaded for a year to develop a new model for the elementary pilot school, which serves kindergarten through grade 5.

Dorchester Academy, located at the Dorchester Education Complex, will move to the building that currently houses grades 6 through 9 of Tech Boston Academy, while TechBoston will become a 6-12 program at Dorchester Education Complex.

Together, the closures and mergers expected to save $10.6 million, according to school department officials. The closure of Fifield alone would save $1.08 million, according to a presentation they provided at the meeting.

Johnson is also hoping to wring out savings through new student assignment zones that will be developed in the spring. Transportation costs figure around $70 million.

In a note to parents posted on the Boston Public Schools’ website, Johnson said the recession has created a "new normal" that demands change across the district. "For example, we have far too many school buildings for the number of students we serve. These empty seats cost millions of dollars every year – money that would be better used on academic efforts," she wrote. "The loss of federal stimulus funds ($31 million), increased compensation costs and health benefits ($20 million) and other operational and energy costs make these tough decisions necessary. We must prioritize the academic programs that work for students above all else."

Schools in Roxbury, East Boston, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park and South Boston are also slated for closures or mergers under Johnson's plan.

At English High, Johnson and the school committee were greeted by a crowd that was often boisterous, and filled with supporters of Farrgut Elementary School in Mission Hill and Agassiz Elementary in Jamaica Plain.

The crowd also included grateful parents from the Clap, such as Sandy Moran. Moran learned that Johnson was proposing to keep the school open through a text from another parent.

"I didn't believe it," said Moran, who works as a lunch mother there.

She urged the parents at schools still slated for closure to keep fighting.

A School Committee hearing on the plans is scheduled for Dec. 8. The school committee is expected to vote on Johnson’s plan on Dec. 15.

A copy of Johnson's remarks is available here.

More information is available at http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/redesign.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated at 10:36 p.m. 12/2/2010 to add information from the School Committee meeting and at 2:00 p.m. on 12/3/2010 to upload a copy Johnson's remarks.

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