By Seth Daniel
A sudden and controversial plan to potentially demolish the McKinley South End Academy on Warren Avenue in the South End and build a new 4-6 story school to house the Josiah Quincy Middle and High Schools has been shelved for the time being in order to get more input from faculty, parents and – most importantly – the community.
The plan surfaced in small pieces over the summer, but really emerged this fall in the neighborhood as those from the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association began to get details of the plan through working in a relatively new friendly partnership with the McKinley community. A preliminary plan discussed was to build the new, much larger school on the site of the McKinley South End – which houses a very vulnerable special needs population, many of whom suffered severe trauma – and then move McKinley students into a facility on Columbia Point in Dorchester.
To date, Ellis members said there has not been any community meeting with them about what could be a very inconvenient and neighborhood-changing school building project.
The Sun previously reported that a deadline of Sept. 29 had been imposed on the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to present a plan to the state School Building Authority (MSBA) in order to advance the Quincy School project to the next stage of the planning process.
The end result of that was BPS asking for a delay.
“They told us they were seeking an extension,” said Matt Donovan of the MSBA. “Nothing was submitted to us by the Sept. 29 deadline to make the agenda for the Nov. 9 Board meeting. We’ve been working with them for awhile. We’ll look forward to planning for this and continuing our working relationship with Boston.”
In a statement, BPS told the Sun they needed time to review the project with the community, and that any project involving the Quincy School and McKinley Schools would be run through the existing 10-year Facilities and Education Master Plan that is currently being conducted. That process is expected to start having reports on the educational aspect this week, and facilities projects within that plan would be unveiled later in the fall.
“The Build BPS 10-Year Facilities and Educational Master Plan will inform any future major school capital investments to ensure that any changes best meet the demands of 21st Century learning for all students,” read a statement to the Sun. “Boston Public Schools feels it necessary to request time from the MSBA to adequately evaluate impacts and convey implications to stakeholders and community members. BPS works closely with partners at the MSBA to ensure timely and transparent communication relating to the timing, cost and feasibility associated with a major capital project involving multiple sites. Major logistical moves must be evaluated to determine impact to cost, schedule, enrollment, transportation, assignment and community impact.”
Neighbors abutting the project have been flabbergasted by the lack of information and communication given to them on what would be an extraordinary change to their properties, many of which would have had their views and sunlight blocked.
Betsy Hall, an abutter who also happens to be president of the Ellis South End, spoke as a abutter said she was disappointed that the City hadn’t yet reached out to the neighborhood or the abutters. She also said she was relieved that the brakes have been put on for now.
“As an abutter, I am relieved to learn that this project has been postponed, hopefully for a long time,” she said this week. “The neighbors were deeply concerned about uprooting the kids with no clear option for relocation as well as about such major construction in the midst of this relatively fragile, residential neighborhood. Speaking for the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association, I continue to be amazed at the lack of transparency over this project. I saw my role as one of sharing information and all I could share were rumors… Going forward, for everyone’s sake, perhaps we can be better informed.”
A facilities proposal, based on several community meetings last spring and summer, is expected to be presented to the Boston School Committee this fall. Any project or proposal including the Quincy School or the McKinley South End would be included, or not, in that 10-year plan.