Imagine that you are a seventh grader in a Boston middle school. You’ve been at this school since sixth grade, you have your group of friends, and you are getting used to the work. Then, one day, you hear an announcement that the school is shutting down. Now, all your school supplies have to go home and you will have to move to a new school and see new people. This is what could happen to BPS’s middle schoolers because of BuildBPS, a educational plan by Mayor Marty Walsh.
According to the Boston Public Schools website, BuildBPS is a 10 year plan supported by $1 billion that is supposed to strengthen our city’s education. One component of BuildBPS is to eliminate middle schools in Boston so that students experience fewer transitions. From 2012 to 2018, there was a enrollment decline at middle schools by 1,800 students. In response to this, BPS is closing down middle schools to merge them with high schools, creating 7-12th grade schools.
When I was in sixth grade at the BTU, I found myself wishing I was in a middle school. Now, as a seventh grader at O’Bryant, I still sometimes think about how different things could be if I were in a middle school. I think O’Bryant is a good school, but my experience might have been different if it were a 9-12 instead of a 7-12. I remember when I first came to O’Bryant, I thought it was so crowded. That made me nervous. I started to get really distracted in class because there were so many people in the hallways. There was also a lot more homework in every subject. It would take me over an hour to finish it all. I also had to carry more binders and notebooks. My shoulders started to hurt.
For middle school aged students, it’s important to be around other middle schoolers. I don’t want to be around little kids. I think they are annoying—they cry and scream, and teachers are always yelling at them. However, I didn’t want to be around older kids either, because they’re also distracting. They’re loud and scary. Middle schoolers who are only with kids their age can focus better, do their work, and maybe get better grades.
Middle schools are also smaller. This makes it more comfortable for all the students everywhere. You get a chance to know everyone around you, so it’s easier to make friends. You can also get help from teachers or other students more easily in a middle school because there are fewer students. One time, I wanted to go in to talk to an English teacher at O’Bryant, but I didn’t, because I feel like my teacher doesn’t care about me. In a middle school, my teacher would know me and my work better, and then I’d feel more comfortable talking to him or her.
When I first transferred to O’Bryant, I felt unprepared in some ways. Math especially was really hard. I got the worst grade I had ever gotten, a C. I feel like I’m adjusted to O’Bryant now, but it definitely took a couple of months for me to catch up. I think I needed more time to adjust to the responsibilities and the work that O’Bryant required. Middle school would have been a good transitional time where I could have learned to be responsible without getting bad grades.
While BuildBPS argues that enrollment in middle schools is down and that transitions from school to school should decline, I believe that middle schools are worth it, based on my personal experience. Middle schools offer comfort, adjustment time, and increased focus for their students. That’s what kids my age really need.