On may 12, 2022, building on her campaign commitment to deliver a Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools (BPS), Mayor Michelle Wu revealed a $2 billion plan to regenerate BPS facilities, including both new construction and renovation projects, as well as district-wide upgrades.
The plan will be kickstarted by a $605 million investment in the FY23-27 Capital Plan to launch major new projects, with new staffing and planning tools to deliver urgent improvements for BPS communities.
The Green New Deal for BPS is intended to accelerate work to decarbonize the city’s building sector, while delivering urgent improvements to environmental health, justice and safety for BPS students, families and educators. BPS facilities make up nearly half of city-owned building emissions.
“The condition of our BPS facilities has long been a civil rights issue, and this historic investment is generations overdue,” said City Councilor Kendra Lara. “With the looming climate crisis, Boston should be setting the standard for green infrastructure, and a Green New Deal for BPS sets a clear, bold vision that guides us in the right direction. I’m excited to partner with BPS students, families, and staff to deliver on that vision.”
School construction, renovation, and retrofit projects will support citywide climate action while also building community resilience to extreme weather events.
Mayor Wu made the announcement alongside Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson, standing in front of the McKinley Elementary School and McKinley South End Academy, one of the highest needs school buildings in Boston, serving some of the City’s most marginalized students.
The McKinley is one of several schools targeted for major investment, with a programming study proposed in the FY23-27 Capital Plan to bring students, families, and educators to the table to collaboratively assess the school’s needs and propose a vision for improvements.
“The Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools is a pledge to listen to and rebuild trust with our communities,” said Mayor Wu.
“This is a new, all hands on deck approach, with new financial resources, planning tools, and staff capacity to deliver urgent improvements to our school buildings. With students, families, and educators at the table, we’ll continue investing until every school can cultivate the healthy, nurturing environment our kids deserve,” she added.
The projects reflected in the FY23-27 Capital Plan include 14 new school construction or major renovation projects, as well as significant upgrades to athletic facilities at White Stadium.
“Every child deserves a modern, up-to-date and well-equipped learning environment that stimulates their creativity and fuels their excitement about learning,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools.
“Creating high quality schools in every neighborhood was a goal of mine when I first came to Boston. The City’s commitment to creating 21st-century school buildings and classrooms across Boston is an important step forward for our students and families, and for the entire BPS community,” she continued.
Also included in the plan are district-wide capital investments that will bring facilities improvements to nearly every BPS community, including energy and water efficiency upgrades, the installation of solar panels, renovations to bathrooms and kitchens, school yard improvements, and the installation of air conditioners and drinking water fountains.
These projects represent a significant increase in City funds for school facilities projects and an acceleration of major new projects. Only nine new schools were built in Boston in the last 40 years, leaving decades of deferred maintenance to address urgently.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to modernize our school facilities while also investing in projects that will help ensure a healthier planet for all,” said Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson. “The School Committee looks forward to working in partnership with students, families, teachers, and the entire BPS community to make this vision a reality for Boston’s young people.”
“The BTU is thrilled to hear the announcement of much-needed upgrades to school facilities through a Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools,” said Jessica Tang, President, Boston Teachers Union.
“This initiative includes the creation of the most new school buildings in a single undertaking in decades, and an investment of that magnitude is long overdue. Our members are grateful to Mayor Wu and the school department for this crucial step toward progress within BPS to create the schools our students deserve. It is a major step in ensuring all BPS students have facilities that meet their needs to learn and grow, while also addressing much needed climate change updates. We could not be more thankful to be a part of this partnership,” she added.
For the first time, students, families, and educators can use a new Building Dashboard, built internally by the BPS Facilities team over the last year–for a comprehensive look at the data guiding the City’s capital project proposals. The Building Dashboard integrates data from across 30 different maintenance categories with the SY22 Opportunity Index, which assigns a score to schools that serve the highest concentrations of students in need based on a variety of factors.
The Dashboard then assigns each BPS facility a Building Needs Score to assess facilities holistically across the entire district, and is updated by the BPS Facilities team as new information becomes available. By providing an objective assessment of relative need, the Dashboard informs the prioritization of school buildings targeted for renovations or other upgrades in the FY23-27 Capital Plan.
The City is also investing in new tools to guide more transparent, data-based, effective decision-making on school facilities for future Capital Plans. Starting this spring, BPS is working with Bureau Veritas Technical Assessments, LLC to develop a Facilities Condition Assessment to independently validate the data in the Dashboard, provide an objective and detailed analysis of our school buildings’ needs, and make recommendations for renovations and upgrades. The full study will be completed in 18-24 months.
In addition, the Public Facilities Department is working with DLR Group, Inc. to develop a School Design Study to work collaboratively with BPS community members to create programming and design guidelines for safe, sustainable, and inspiring school facilities. This study is intended to accelerate the programming and design phases of future projects, enabling the City of Boston to take on school facilities upgrades at an unprecedented pace. It will be complete in 12 to 18 months from when the project kicks off this summer.
The new approach to school facilities management will be driven by a coordinated, interdepartmental team. To spearhead a new approach to BPS facilities planning, Mayor Wu has asked Dion Irish, Chief of Operations for the City of Boston, and Indira Alvarez, Chief Operations Officer for Boston Public Schools, to manage an interdepartmental team.
Mayor Wu’s FY23 budget proposal includes 25 new staff positions to execute on school construction and renovation projects, including project managers, coordinators, and construction directors. This new staff capacity will be key to ensuring that this work is delivered efficiently, effectively, and on a clear timeline while minimizing disruption to school communities.
This announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to expanding opportunities for Boston’s youth including recent expansions of Early College and Innovation Pathways programming and the Summer Youth Jobs program and the launch of a partnership between the Public Works Department and Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to train high school students in electric vehicle maintenance.
Photo courtesy of Boston Public Schools.