Wu defends plan to move the O'Bryant school to West Roxbury

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Mayor Michelle Wu, center, and Del Stanislaus, right, Boston Public Schools chief of capital planning, outside the West Roxbury Educational Complex on Monday, July 31, 2023. (Max Larkin/WBUR)
Mayor Michelle Wu, center, and Del Stanislaus, right, Boston Public Schools chief of capital planning, outside the West Roxbury Educational Complex on Monday, July 31, 2023. (Max Larkin/WBUR)

As Boston school officials and Mayor Michelle Wu hone in on the West Roxbury Education Complex as the new site for the John D. O'Bryant School of Math & Science, the mayor affirmed on Monday that the O'Bryant still needs to move and the West Roxbury location won't go to waste.

The O'Bryant currently shares a campus with Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury. As WBUR's Max Larkin has reported, "many educators and families at the school don’t share the enthusiasm about the prospective move."

While they acknowledged the need for more space, they raise concerns about a variety of potential consequences, like a decline in student diversity, the disruption of community partnerships and longer commutes for both students and staff.

Many were especially troubled by what they described as a lack of community engagement ahead of the announcement.

“We were, as a community, blindsided by the decision — which I think was intentional,” O’Bryant parent Rahul Dhanda said in an interview.

Wu said district leaders have explored other potential campus sites, including ones closer to the school's current location in Roxbury. The city's analysis of those alternatives will be shared with the public, she said during an appearance on WBUR's Radio Boston.

"In many of the other sites, you could theoretically find space for 2,000 students, if you just build very high up, right?" Wu said, referring to the number of additional seats a move to West Roxbury would unlock for the O'Bryant.

If the West Roxbury Education Complex doesn't win approval as the new home for the O'Bryant, the site will still be demolished.

"Whether it ends up being the O'Bryant or a different school,  what we're doing in the process is taking steps that would have to happen anyways," Wu said. "Demolition of that site is something that's in the budget and that we're preparing for, ripping it down to the studs so that we could accelerate the process later on."

Speaking after a tour of the West Roxbury complex on Monday, Wu said the site holds a lot of potential for the state-of-the-art STEM campus she and Boston Public School leaders envision: a space that can fit a field for football and soccer and a swimming pool, in addition to fully built out science labs and maker spaces.

"For me what is immediately apparent is how much light and space and just the range of facilities that is possible there that in many parts of our much denser, older city you can't find," Wu said.

Limited transportation and the West Roxbury site's remoteness from other parts of the city are among the chief concerns Wu said she's heard from students, families and educators in recent weeks. In response, Wu said she hopes conversations with the MBTA might result in solutions like adding a stop on the commuter rail near the school. A redesign of the BPS shuttle system could also help, she said.

Wu said additional groups like O'Bryant teachers will get a chance to tour the West Roxbury campus in the future. Public meetings on the relocation have also begun, and more are planned to give the community members a chance to provide their feedback.

Wu also talked about BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper's achievements, the upcoming Boston City Council election, the NAACP national convention, climate change and more during her monthly conversation with Radio Boston's Tiziana Dearing. You can listen to the entire interview by clicking on the attached audio player.

This segment aired on July 31, 2023.


Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.


Amanda Beland Producer/Director
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.


Vanessa Ochavillo Associate Producer
Vanessa Ochavillo is an associate producer for WBUR focused on digital news.



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