Blackstone parents celebrate the prospect of real walls and doors at their school

Blackstone Elementary School parents and the school community threw a party to celebrate the prospect of walls and doors at their school.

“Without walls and doors in so many classrooms, I worry every day for my son’s safety,” said Blackstone parent Rafaela Polanco. “And not just that, when anyone walks down the hallway every kid in his class turns around to look. It’s so distracting,”

At the March 27 School Committee meeting, Interim Superintendent Laura Perille surprised the many Blackstone parents, teachers, and students in the room when she announced, “We have a pending proposal for $5 million of investment to begin a plan and study of what it would take to put walls and doors into the Blackstone or reconfigure a number of the classrooms.”

The Blackstone community members had marched from their school to the meeting to protest the loss of several key staff members in the 2019-20 budget, which was approved that night. The cuts were not restored, but community members were still happy to hear they may be getting real walls to replace the thin, noisy partitions they have now.

The Blackstone was built in the 1970s as an “open plan” building. But experience has shown that the absence of walls leads to frequent distractions that get in the way of learning.

At the School Committee meeting, fifth grade student Madeline Abel spoke about a different problem. If an intruder were to come into the building, she said, “We can’t hide. …We are sitting ducks.” She said intruder drills terrify the students because they know they couldn’t get away if there were a real threat.

In a letter dated April 10th, school officials wrote to parents: “The proposal for the $5 million capital repairs project that has been submitted by the Boston Public Schools has not yet been approved. It was submitted as a proposal – but only a proposal – on February 21 and is directed at closing off all classroom spaces within the Blackstone… We will know whether our proposal has been approved in late June, when the City of Boston’s capital plan is voted on by the City Council.”

Parent Iris Diaz said the community is looking forward eagerly to hear the plans for their new walls and doors. She hopes communication with BPS officials remains open. “We know that the $5 million for doors and walls for the Blackstone school is a priority, and we thank [the District] for their commitment to our children’s safety.”

By the St. Stephen’s Youth Programs Parent Organizing Team