Last Thursday, Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston Public Schools (BPS) celebrated the opening of the Dearborn STEM 6-12 Early College Academy, Boston’s first school built and designed specifically for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning, and the first new school built in the city in fifteen years.
Located near Roxbury’s Dudley Square, the $72 million cutting-edge facility features indoor and outdoor learning space, two fabrication labs, an assortment of modern technology including 3D printers and laser die cutters, a gymnasium, a dance studio, and a media center. The school also runs on green energy systems and offers views of Boston’s skyline from several classrooms.
Currently, 488 students are enrolled at the Dearborn STEM Academy, a number that is expected to grow to 600 by 2020 as the school expands. Dearborn students and staff had been housed in Dorchester’s Jeremiah Burke High School during the three-year construction process. As the school year begins, students will now move back to the brand-new building at 36 Winthrop St., the former site of Henry Dearborn Middle School.
“I am thrilled to open the Dearborn STEM Academy and continue the trend of new beginnings in the City of Boston,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “Students, teachers, and families are excited for all the possibilities the new year brings. And we, as a City, are making historic investments in our youth and our communities. I can’t wait to see this school grow, and know that Dearborn students are going to do remarkable things in their new home.”
Dearborn is operated by Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE), a nonprofit educational organization that focuses on developing and improving schools in the Dudley area through collaboration with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Roxbury Presbyterian Church.
In the Dudley triangle, 54 percent of households earn less than $25,000 per year and only 16 percent of residents have attained a two or four year college degree, according to BPE’s website. The non-profit hope to remedy underperforming schools and provide students access to advanced educational opportunities through its innovative facilities— the grade 6-12 Dearborn STEM Academy and the grade 1-5 Dudley Square Neighborhood Charter School— and its Boston Teaching Residency, a program that trains and prepares a diverse corps of BPS educators.
“The opening of the new Dearborn STEM Academy shows our students that the possibilities are endless,” said Jesse Solomon, executive director of BPE. “In Boston, we live in one of the most thriving STEM economies in the country, and our students can literally see it from their classroom windows. This new building and our school’s programs and design can help our students access Boston’s many professional opportunities.”
Eleventh-grader Francilliana Barbosa of Dorchester spoke during the unveiling ceremony about the many opportunities she was provided as a student at Dearborn STEM, including her experience building her own toiletry organizer business through the BUILD entrepreneurship program, and an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“The Dearborn has provided many students, including myself, with opportunities that are productive, educational, and interactive,” Barbosa said. “I have grown so much because of my experiences at Dearborn. I am so grateful that we have this new building, which will help challenge us, and further our STEM education and 21st century skills.”
Funding for the new school was offset in part by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which reimbursed about $37 million of the total cost. Since 2014, Mayor Walsh and BPS have secured more than $110 million in MSBA funds to support new school buildings and facility renovations. Dearborn will look to serve as a model for future projects built through BuildBPS, a ten-year master plan to revamp and modernize BPS schools announced by the city in 2017.