During the campaign for the District 5 seat, many residents spoke about what they wanted government to be and a word often stated was “transparent.” I believe our municipal government has to look at all issues through a racial equity and justice lens and that view was supported by residents throughout my campaign. Both are guiding principles for me as the sitting Boston City Councilor for District 5.
I have supported the building of a new high school for Roxbury Prep at 361 Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale, which is in District 5. This proposed high school would replace a former auto shop that languishes there now and give students a dedicated facility replacing the two they currently use, one already in District 5. It will be a high school where 562 young people, 100% of them black or Latinx, can learn in a building constructed with their success in mind.
I am a proud product of the Boston Public Schools and an ardent supporter of public education. My mother was, and my sister now is, a Boston Public School teacher and all my nieces and nephews attend the Boston Public Schools. Roxbury Prep happens to be a charter school, and some have framed this conversation in those terms but that should not be what the debate around 361 Belgrade Avenue should be about.
No new charter school seats will be added to the city of Boston when this building gets built. Instead — kids who have been experiencing high school in two separate buildings that are inadequate no longer will have to eat lunch at their desks instead of at a cafeteria, and walk to the YMCA for gym. They can finally experience high school as it should be for them.
For these students, their families, and the District 5 community at large, I urge the Boston Planning and Development Agency “BPDA” to do the right thing and put the high school project on their agenda in February. In response to neighborhood concerns, proponents of building a new high school for Roxbury Prep have listened to community concerns and feedback. They have proposed major changes to the original plan, including decreasing the size of the building and the number of students.
The proponents’ traffic studies also show reasonably minimal impact and they have developed a plan to maximize the MBTA schedule — there’s a train right behind the facility and multiple bus lines at the front door. With all the concerns addressed and with 85% of the comments submitted during the designated response period in favor of this project, the truth of the matter is that, at this point, there is no procedural reason for continued delay of the vote.
The proponents of this project have been working at this for over a year and have changed their plans to meet community concerns, and, yet, they cannot get on the BPDA agenda for a vote. This should concern you no matter your position on the question of a high school for Roxbury Prep. Government should be transparent. The process for getting government approvals should be clear and the same for everyone. The City doesn’t just fail the students of Roxbury Prep when they refuse, without explanation, to put the project up for a vote at their February board meeting. They fail all of us who believe government should work for everyone, and not just some.
Ricardo Arroyo is District 5 City Councilor.