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West Roxbury Education Complex

We conducted a needs assessment to rebuild the West Roxbury Education Complex (WREC) as a comprehensive 7-12 high school serving a student population across the City. The WREC closed in June 2019 due to major roof, masonry, and windows issues and significant deferred maintenance. The FY24 Capital Plan proposes $18.2 million to begin demolition and design of a new facility. In June 2023, we proposed redesigning the facility for the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

Project Status: Planning

GND for BPS Status Tracker, design

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the benefits of building a new John D. O’Bryant campus at the West Roxbury Education Complex (WREC)?

Renovating and expanding the WREC creates a unique opportunity to build a state-of-the-art STEM campus specifically designed to meet the needs of the O’Bryant School. The O’Bryant’s current facility is unable to offer the world-class science labs, engineering labs, or maker spaces that the O’Bryant’s rigorous and comprehensive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum requires. By drawing on the best examples of STEM high schools, colleges, and universities across the nation, the design process for a new facility will lead to learning and community spaces that better support the O’Bryant’s specialized pathway programs in engineering, computer science, and biomedical science. This is also an opportunity to consider new STEM programming, such as an Environmental Science pathway.

Rebuilding the WREC gives the O’Bryant the opportunity to grow its student body, from about 1,600 to 2,000 students. This will allow the 7th and 8th grade to expand to match the size of grades 9-12. 

The WREC is adjacent to some of the best athletic facilities in Boston, including a football field, baseball and softball fields, a multi-use field, a 6-lane running track with spectator stands, basketball courts, tennis courts, and full-size swimming pool. The new facility would better support the O’Bryant’s strong athletics culture. 

The new facility will be entirely fossil-fuel-free, in accordance with Mayor Wu’s recent executive order banning fossil fuels in new or renovated City-owned buildings.


Why can’t the O’Bryant continue to share a campus with Madison Park?

Both the O’Bryant and Madison Park are currently constrained for space on the Malcolm X Boulevard campus. For Madison Park to expand and evolve to become a nation-leading technical-vocational school, including by adding 7th and 8th grade and new Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways, it is not sustainable for both schools to remain located together on the same site. 

The high schools vision laid out by Mayor Wu and the Superintendent Skipper in June 2023 includes a commitment to building a new facility for both schools, each one designed to support each school’s unique program. The programmatic needs of a technical-vocational school like Madison Park make it especially important for the school to be located nearby union and industry partners in Boston in order for students to complete their every-other-week of vocational training.


How will current partnerships be maintained and how will new partnerships add to the new campus student experience?

As the premier STEM high school in Massachusetts, the O’Bryant will continue to attract sustained interest from partners in higher education and the private and public sectors, including dual enrollment opportunities for O’Bryant students. City and BPS leadership will support the O’Bryant School in sustaining existing partnerships (Dana Farber, Vertex, BU School of Medicine, One 8 Foundation, Squash Busters, Analog Devices, Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Wentworth Institute of Technology, MIT Lincoln Laboratories) while also building new ones close to the new campus, such as with the VA Hospital. Conversations have already started with major Boston-based STEM employers about the potential for close partnership to support the O’Bryant curriculum and career pathways. 


How will the current diversity and culture of the O’Bryant community be preserved with a campus move? What will be done to make students feel welcomed in West Roxbury?

The diversity and inclusivity of the O’Bryant is consistently raised as one of the school’s greatest strengths. Students see themselves reflected in their teachers, and they have opportunities to celebrate the culture and heritage of their families and their peers through cultural clubs and affinity groups. These will continue to be cherished parts of the O’Bryant student culture. The new campus would also allow the O’Bryant to grow its student body, enabling even more students to benefit from the O’Bryant’s affirming, rigorous, and inclusive culture. 

The new exam school admissions policy, updated in 2021, ensures that the O’Bryant student body will remain diverse. The policy ensures that an equal number of seats at the O’Bryant are offered to each socioeconomic tier of Boston. This policy would protect the O’Bryant from any major changes to its student body demographics after any proposed relocation. We commit to monitoring the data closely to ensure the policy is working as expected.

With support from the Office of Neighborhood Services and other City departments, we are also committed to intentionally building relationships with the West Roxbury community so that O’Bryant students are welcomed to the new campus.


Why would the O’Bryant move to the WREC rather than to a location closer to the current campus?

We believe the West Roxbury Education Complex is the only available vacant or under-utilized City-owned parcel in Boston that could adequately fit the O’Bryant School for 2,000 students. We conducted a formal study of 3 City-owned alternative sites – the Timilty School, the BWSC parking lots, and Campbell Resource Center. You can find the massing study here and a summary memo from the Public Facilities Department here

The WREC is an existing 5-story structure that has the capacity to expand, giving the O’Bryant the opportunity to grow its student body. It is located on a large site that is next to extensive, high-quality athletic facilities, including a football field, baseball and softball fields, a multi-use field, a 6-lane running track with spectator stands, basketball courts, tennis courts, and full-size swimming pool, as well as proximity to the Charles River and outdoor walking trails.


Is the WREC sinking?

No. The WREC is adjacent to marshland, but the building and surrounding site are not at risk of stormwater flooding. The feasibility study included an initial analysis of the surrounding site. Over the coming months, the Public Facilities Department will be performing invasive and destructive testing on the structure to continue to inform the future design, in accordance with the City’s climate resilience plans.

What is the transportation plan to ensure the O’Bryant can continue to serve students from every neighborhood of Boston?

The O’Bryant is a citywide high school and must be accessible to students from across Boston. We are committed to developing and implementing a transportation plan that allows students from all neighborhoods to continue to be full participants in the O’Bryant community, including for athletics and after-school programming. 

BPS will run dedicated shuttle buses from key transit hubs across Boston to bring students from their neighborhoods directly to the new campus, much like BPS does for Boston Latin School and Boston Latin Academy. Currently, 9% of the O’Bryant’s student body lives in East Boston. Any transportation plan must be designed with East Boston students in mind. We are further developing an analysis of potential shuttle bus hubs and routes, and will share that analysis publicly once it’s complete. 

The Forest Hills MBTA station is about a 12 minute drive from the WREC, and will be an important transit hub for O’Bryant students. Shuttle options would run continuously to Forest Hills in the afternoon to give students flexibility and allow for full participation in sports after-school activities. Forest Hills serves as a connection to several major bus routes as well as the Needham Line of the Commuter Rail. The Commuter Rail stops at South Station, Back Bay, Ruggles, and Forest Hills, and is free to BPS students using an M7 pass.


Can we build a new commuter rail station at the WREC?

The Needham Line of the commuter rail runs right past the campus, although there is not yet a station platform. The City of Boston has begun a conversation with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to discuss ways to leverage the commuter rail to improve transportation access for O’Bryant students. We are excited about the potential for increased frequency of the train and a new platform adjacent to the building.

What community engagement has occurred so far?

Since committing in May 2022 to rebuilding the WREC as a high school serving grades 7-12, the City of Boston and BPS have worked with high school leaders and administrators to identify potential future uses of the campus. The conversation narrowed to focus on the exam schools for several reasons. The WREC is large, and the exam schools are significantly larger than the average BPS high school. Importantly, the BPS exam school admissions policy, updated in 2021, ensures that the student body of any of these three schools would remain diverse after any potential relocation. It is essential that any investments in a new facility will benefit students from across Boston, and the exam school admissions policy guarantees that no matter where a school is located, an equal number of seats are offered to each socioeconomic tier of Boston. 

In late 2022, the City’s Public Facilities Department began a feasibility study (available online) to evaluate the potential of a 2,000-student, grade 7-12 exam school in the current or renovated building. Since beginning that study, City and BPS officials have had conversations with school leaders and groups of teachers and other school-based staff, alumni, families, students, and advocates and community partners. We also looked at student data to understand the geographic distribution of different high schools’ student bodies. We heard thoughtful feedback in each of these conversations that led us to propose that the WREC be re-built for the O’Bryant. These early conversations also shaped our early planning efforts to mitigate any challenges related to the proposal, such as developing a transportation plan and ways to maintain strong partnerships. 

Sharing the proposal publicly in June 2023 was an important step to be able to continue stakeholder conversations with a focus on those who would be most impacted. We are grateful to the feedback we have received from community members so far and look forward to continuing the community engagement process to continue to shape and refine the proposal and design.


What are the next steps for community engagement?

BPS Capital Planning hosted the first community meeting on Zoom on June 20. The recording of the conversation is available here. These frequently asked questions are based on the feedback and questions we heard during that meeting, and will continue to be updated. 

Before the next community meeting in the fall, we will complete a more detailed transportation analysis and outline potential shuttle routes, which we will share for community feedback. In the fall, we also plan to invite the entire O’Bryant community to tour the WREC facility. 

This proposal must be voted on by the Boston School Committee in order to move forward. We aim to introduce the proposal to the School Committee during School Year 2023-24.


When would construction begin?

If the proposal is approved by the Boston School Committee, the Public Facilities Department would put out a Request for Proposals for Owner’s Project Manager and design services to design a new facility based on the O’Bryant’s program and vision. We invite students, families, teachers and staff to be part of this design process. This is an opportunity to plan for expanded STEM and STEAM programming and partnerships, including state-of-the-art science labs, engineering labs, and maker spaces. 

After initial demolition work and completing the full design, we believe construction on the WREC could begin in early 2025. The total length of construction will depend on the design, but may be estimated at around 2 years.


How will the construction of the new facility for the O’Bryant be funded?

The City of Boston Fiscal Year 2024-2028 Capital Plan includes an initial $18 million to begin demolition and design work on the WREC. Total construction costs will be determined over the course of design, but since this will be a full gut renovation and rebuild project, we expect the total cost to grow significantly over the coming years, as we move from design into construction. 

Madison Park will similarly be renovated and expanded, with $45 million initially budgeted in the FY24-28 Capital Plan. The budget allocations reflected in this year’s Capital Plan are only for initial phases of design for each project. Both projects will see their budgets increase significantly in the next fiscal year.

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