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Carol Johnson to unveil school overhaul plan

Carol Johnson to unveil school overhaul plan

By Marie Szaniszlo  |   Thursday, December 2, 2010  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Coverage

Faced with a $63 million budget shortfall, Boston schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson is expected to propose closing nine schools, merging five others and extending the school day by an hour in the years to come under a plan she is expected to unveil tonight.

“We recognize maintaining the status quo won’t work,” Johnson said yesterday, adding that some students “aren’t getting what they need.”

The proposal calls for closing three high schools in Hyde Park alone: the Engineering School, the Social Justice Academy and the Community Academy of Science and Health, which would be relocated to the site of the former Cleveland School in Dorchester.

Two elementary schools — the Ralph Waldo Emerson in Roxbury and the Roger Clap in Dorchester — also would close, and the East Zone Early Learning Center would be moved to the William Trotter in Roxbury and James Holland in Dorchester.

If the school committee approves the plan Dec. 15, all of the targeted schools would close in June.

In addition, the Patrick F. Gavin Middle School in South Boston would be converted into an in-district charter school called the UP (Unlocking Potential) Academy, while the Lee Elementary School and Lee Academy would merge. Johnson also is proposing adding at least one other in-district charter school, Green Academy.

The schools slated for closure or merger were chosen because they are struggling academically, have many open seats or both, Johnson said. There are 5,600 vacant seats in 135 schools, a number untenable for a district facing a $63 million shortfall next year, after its economic stimulus money from the federal government runs out.

Scheduling adjustments at each school would fill empty seats without raising class sizes, which now range from 22 students in primary school to 30 students in high school.

Johnson said her plan would permanently reduce annual costs by more than $60 million, partly by linking teacher evaluations to student performance and eliminating annual “double raises” based on longevity.

Up to $7 million of the savings would be on transportation and student assignment through measures including enforcing existing walk-zone rules and developing new student assignment zones this spring, she said.

By 2014, the district also would have school days that are one hour longer, identify struggling students earlier and assign mentors to every one, Johnson said.

A public hearing on Johnson’s plan will be held Dec. 8.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1300255

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