Wu to launch a new era of school construction, pledging $2 billion to revamp city’s school facilities

“These improvements are long overdue, decades overdue in many cases, and we’re often seeing the consequences of deferred maintenance,” Wu said at a press conference outside the McKinley Elementary School in the South End. “Our young people see that every day in the feelings they have when they enter buildings where you can see water stains on the ceiling tiles, or shades that don’t properly work, or windows that are sticky to open. And we’re seeing that you have built and reinforces mistrust between the city and the community we are here to serve.”

The $2 billion includes $650 million already outlined in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan that was released last month and a number of projects that are already in planning or have been widely discussed.

The projects include renovating the McKinley and Blackstone elementary schools in the South End, King K-8 in Roxbury, PJ Kennedy Elementary School in East Boston, Community Academy of Science and Health in Dorchester, a new building for the Otis Elementary School on Paris Street , expanding Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, replacing the shuttered West Roxbury high school campus and the Jackson Mann school complex in Allston, and upgrading White Stadium.

It also encompasses new elementary school buildings in Roxbury and Dorchester/Mattapan, converting the soon-to-be shuttered Irving Middle School into an elementary school, and renovating the Timilty Middle School for swing space.

To get school construction humming and ensure adequate oversight, the efforts call for greater collaboration between the facility departments at City Hall and in Boston Public Schools, and the creation of several new positions, such as project managers.

As part of the effort, the city will be conducting a study to determine what are the common features every elementary and secondary school should have and also make sure facilities meet state standards. The latter will help the city secure state reimbursements for school construction costs through the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The city also is launching a facilities dashboard where parents can look up an assortment of information about the condition of their children’s school buildings. The dashboard will give each school facility an overall rating so that parents can figure out how their children’s school stacks up against others in the city and why some school projects are being prioritized over others.

The dashboard will even rate the more granular aspects of a school facility, including the condition of the plumbing system, boilers, and even the paint on the walls, and allow for comparisons. For instance, 48 schools are in need of new boilers.

“I would like to emphasize that this is one stepping stone,” said another city official involved with the effort. “It’s phase one towards understanding the school district’s comprehensive facilities needs. … Phase two is a very detailed, robust, industry-standard facilities condition assessment that we are launching. And then that data will later be incorporated into this building dashboard and prioritization methodology.”

This is not the first time the city has tried to coordinate facilities planning between City Hall and BPS to jump-start school construction. BuildBPS, the school system’s current long-term facilities plan developed under former Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration, called for greater partnership. Like Wu’s effort, BuildBPS included a public dashboard on facility conditions.

However, the BuildBPS dashboard didn’t provide an overarching rating for schools as many parents were raising concerns that BuildBPS could usher in a period of school closures in addition to construction projects. The school district has been grappling with declining enrollment for years.

The Great Divide team explores educational inequality in Boston and statewide. Sign up to receive our newsletterand send ideas and tips to [email protected].


James Vaznis can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.

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