Two Options on Table for School Redistricting Proposals

October 9, 2012
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The Boston Public School Department has released several proposals for redistricting the city’s school choice zones in an effort to return to community schools in the Back Bay.

On Monday, October 1 school officials met with the community at the Jackson/Mann School in Allston to go over the plan.

Under the new school choice plan, BPS has come up with several scenarios to make the commute to school for Back Bay students and parents easier.

Right now there are two options on the table.

The first is a ‘no zone’ model. In this model BPS would assign Back Bay students directly to the school closest to them, with adjustments for capacity and programmatic options. In this model, families would not make school choices and students would receive their assignment based on their address and specific programmatic needs. If the capacity at the closest school were full, then the student would be assigned to the second closest school.

The second option would use a school choice model breaking up the city into 23, 11, 9 or 6 zones.

Under the 23 zone plan parents in Back Bay could chose either the Gardner or Jackson/Mann Schools in Allston or the Quincy School in Chinatown as choices.

However, under the 11, 9 and 6 zone plan Back Bay parents could chose all the schools in Allston-Brighton and the Quincy in Chinatown as choices. This would include the Gardner, Jackson/Mann, Baldwin, Lyon, Winship and Edison as possible school choices.

Under the zone plan students living in a zone would apply to any school in their Home Zone or within their walk zones, even if that school were across a boundary. Students could also apply to citywide options.

Inside every zone is a pathway. Elementary school students would feed into middle school and K-8 Schools. If a student moves into the district after 5th grade, they would be eligible to apply to any middle school or K-8 within their middle school zone boundary. All high schools would remain citywide just as today.

Sibling preference and walk-zone preference would still apply. If a school is across a boundary line from a students’ home but within the walk zone, that family could still apply to the school.

The proposals are based on feedback and input from the External Advisory Committee (EAC), BPS will be updating the proposals after a series of community meeting in this month across the city. Then, the EAC will make a recommendation to the Superintendent, who will bring a proposal to the Boston School Committee in December. The School Committee will then hold additional public hearings before voting on a new plan this winter.

“The plan is to provide the best chance to get a great education for more our students,” said BPS Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson. “We’ve talked to parents across the city and they told us most important thing to them was the was quality of education in every school. They want to see good principals, teachers that care and a sense of community through partnerships with other community groups. Parents also want to see improvements to facilities and the guarantee of safety in the schools. We are committed to making the kind of changes and focus on quality education in a very different way than we have in the past and we want to make sure we make those changes.”

Last week, At-Large City Councilor John Connolly offered an alternative to BPS’s plan. Connolly met with State Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry, Russell Holmes, Ed Coppinger, Nick Collins, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley to pitch the proposal.

“This is not a step that we took lightly or eagerly,” said Connolly. “However, we are convinced that our plan, the Quality Choice Plan, presents a creative alternative that focuses on improving school quality and bridging the divide between those who want schools close to home and those who want broad choices.”

The plan offered by Connolly, dubbed the Quality Choice Plan, states that every child would be grandfathered at their current school. Every child will be guaranteed a kindergarten (K-2) seat at one of the four schools closest to that child’s home (no more wait-lists and no more lines on maps). Every child will be eligible for a network of citywide magnet schools with innovative curriculums. Every child will have a guaranteed K-8 school or K-8 pathway. Families can apply as groups to gain seats together at under-selected schools.

“Second, we address quality with ten specific measures – five focused on establishing a quality baseline for every Boston Public School, and five focused on creating quality supports for schools serving large numbers of students facing the greatest challenges,” said Connolly. “These quality measures include fully staffing student support services and after-school programming at these schools as well as granting such schools innovation, pilot, or in-district charter status.”

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