Residents Urged to Attend Meeting to Get Downtown Grammar School

Elected officials and other community leaders are encouraging residents to use this Wednesday’s community meeting of the External Advisory Committee on Improving School Choice and School Assignment as a forum to petition for a new public grammar school to serve downtown neighborhoods.

“This is an opportunity to advocate for a new public elementary school,” State Rep. Marty Walz said. “There was sparse attendance by residents of downtown neighborhoods at previous meetings…and those who want a new school should be participating in this process.”

In January, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Dr. Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools (BPS), convened the 27-member External Advisory Committee to gather data on demographics, equity and enrollment, with the intent of overhauling the lottery system to put priority on placing children in quality schools near their homes. More than 30 community meetings were held on the process between March and last month, and approximately 2,300 citizens have filled out a survey on the matter to date, according to BPS spokesman Lee McGuire.

“We value their feedback, we heard what they said, and we look forward to filling the needs of residents from all corners of Boston,” McGuire said.

Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Executive Director MaryLee Halpin pointed to quality, accessible grammar schools as essential for keeping young families in the city.

“Families are a critical element in the success of any city,” Halpin said. “In order for families to thrive, it is critical that they have nearby schools. The Beacon Hill Civic Association strongly encourages parents and those considering raising a family in the city to engage with the Boston Public Schools on the issue of access to quality public education.”

Rob Whitney, a Phillips Street resident and BHCA board member, was able to place his 5-year-old son Adam at the Eliot School in the North End this fall, but realizes that other parents living on Beacon Hill aren’t so fortunate.

“The number of people on Beacon Hill who want to have kids and stay in the city has greatly increased,” Whitney said. “Having additional spaces and options for their kids is very important.”

Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) Chair James Hill said, “We really wish there were a primary school in the Back Bay to choose from. Our younger students have way to far to go for any public school.”

City Councilor Mike Ross said downtown families are choosing public school at record rates, making coveted spots at the few downtown elementary schools, including the Eliot, Josiah Quincy and the Warren-Prescott, even harder to obtain.

“Downtown families prove they’ll choose public schools, if given the option,” Ross said. “It’s very important that parents continue to organize around this issue.”

The External Advisory Committee on Improving School Choice and School Assignment will presents its findings to date during a community meeting in the Rabb Lecture Hall (lower concourse of the Johnson Building) of the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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