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Roxbury Prep. to construct new building in Newmarket

Anna Lamb

After trying for years to build a new campus for students on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale, administrators at Roxbury Prep High School say they’ve found a new location for an expanded school in the Newmarket neighborhood of Roxbury.

The charter school plans to serve students in grades 9-12 at a new site located on Proctor Street in the Newmarket area. The new building will include a full-sized gymnasium, cafeteria, performing arts spaces and high-tech science classrooms. The new 90,000-square-foot site will combine the student populations currently taking classes in two different buildings in Hyde Park and Roxbury.

And for the school’s almost 90% of students that take public transportation, the Newmarket campus is accessible via four bus lines and the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line’s Newmarket stop.

“We could not be happier to be moving forward with our new campus that ensures our students have the permanent, world-class home they deserve in a neighborhood with a long history of celebrating Black and brown lives,” said Shradha Patel, co-founder of Roxbury Prep High School. “The opportunity to have our students in one building will strengthen learning, success, and build community as our scholars prepare to enter, succeed in and graduate from college.”

Roxbury Prep has been on the hunt for a permanent high school location since it expanded from its original operation serving middle schoolers back in 2015. In 2018, the school set its sights on a shuttered auto-body shop in Roslindale but was met by pushback from neighbors and elected officials, who cited traffic concerns and political objections to the charter school model.

The fierce opposition to the new school called into question issues of race and class, with almost 95% of the student body being made up of Black and Hispanic students compared to the nearly 50% white population of Roslindale, and the overwhelmingly white population in the Belgrade Avenue area in particular.

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, whose district would have included the site of the school, said the opposition was “rooted in racism,” as studies showed minimal traffic impact and the school continually tweaked plans for a smaller building with fewer students in order to gain approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

In a letter published in the Banner in 2020, Arroyo wrote, “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.”

Despite the setback from the years-long battle with the BPDA, and coronavirus interruptions, administrators at the school see the plan for Newmarket as a new chapter for Roxbury Prep.

Plagued by more than just space issues for the last several years, including high rates of suspension for Black students — the highest of any high school in Massachusetts pre-pandemic — school officials say this will be a chance for much-needed positive educational growth.

A press release from the school states that administrators hope the new location can be “a permanent environment for long-term academic, social, and community success.”

After submitting a Letter of Intent to BPDA earlier this month, Roxbury Prep now begins the Article 80 review process, during which community feedback will be sought.

Ruven Rodriguez, chair of the Roxbury Prep Board of Trustees, said in a statement, “We have the opportunity to join critical, ongoing investment efforts led by the City of Boston, neighborhood businesses, and community partners to enhance the Newmarket neighborhood. We are excited about the new opportunities this move will offer our school community, during our building phase and as a long-term neighbor.”

Roxbury Prep High School