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After Months Of Resistance, Roxbury Prep Shrinks Size Of Planned High School

A rendering of the revised, smaller proposal for the new Roxbury Prep High School (Courtesy of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates)MoreCloseclosemore
A rendering of the revised, smaller proposal for the new Roxbury Prep High School (Courtesy of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates)

After months of neighborhood resistance, Roxbury Prep High School has announced that it will shrink the size of a planned high school on the Roslindale/West Roxbury border by around 46 percent.

Autumn McLaughlin, an adviser to the 361 Belgrade Ave. project team, called it "the best way to move the project forward" for students who are, for now, divided into two less-than-ideal learning spaces more than five miles apart.

The new building's planned size will shrink by around 46 percent: from three stories and 96,000 square feet down to two stories and just under 50,000 square feet. Its student capacity will come down from around 800 to 562 students.

But McLaughlin notes, the new building will have more parking and "all the assets that we need," including a full-sized gymnasium, a long-desired cafeteria space, science labs and 21st-century classrooms.

"This smaller high school building is not going to prevent students from going to Roxbury Prep High School," McLaughlin said. "The building was designed originally with room to grow, but this redesigned, smaller size will still fit [our] needs."

A rendering of the original, larger plan for the Roxbury Prep high school at 361 Belgrade Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A rendering of the original, larger plan for the Roxbury Prep high school at 361 Belgrade Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

That smaller size will also answer criticism that the original planned building would have been a large and densely populated addition to a quiet neighborhood. Many residents cited that density as their main reason for opposing the building.

"This proves that Roxbury Prep will be a good neighbor," McLaughlin said. "They listened to community concerns — about density, about traffic — and they responded."

Community opposition groups did not respond to requests for comment on the new, smaller proposal.

And coming in under 50,000 square feet will allow the school to enter into the Boston Planning and Development Agency's small project review process, which proceeds on an expedited timeline.

McLaughlin added that the Roxbury Prep team is pleased with the decision — not disappointed. The redesign is a compromise in size, she said, but "it's not a compromise on the excellent education that its students will receive."

If approved, it will still be years before the new building opens to students.

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Max Larkin Twitter Reporter
Max Larkin is a multimedia reporter for Edify, WBUR's education vertical.

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