Zoned Out

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Ouch. The BPS has already pulled its first proposal for altering the school zone system off the table. Not because of a backlash or political pressure, but because the proposed Zone 4 lacks a needed 616 seats for grades 6 – 8. That’s a pretty material number in a system with less than 60,000 kids and equivalent to an entire school. Its an embarrassing screw-up for the school system.

The attempt to increase the number of zones (of which I am generally supportive) has flushed out a number of interesting items:

1) Integration, the initial impetus behind busing all those years ago, is largely irrelevant. Click on the various zone configurations (current and proposed) that the Globe has helpfully put on-line. There’s no zone in the 3 or 5 zone configuration that is more than 21% white. And there’s no zone where white students are more than the third largest ethnic group.

2) Busing has allowed the physical location of schools to become detached from the concentration of students. This will become evident as each zone becomes smaller. The problem above (with the 616 missing seats) is a symptom of that.

3) Certain neighborhoods had the reality of the number of poorly performing schools brought home to them by this plan. I’m thinking specifically of Jamaica Plain here, which moved pretty dramatically between zones. If you toggle back and forth on the Globe map, you can see that the number of available schools needed major overhauls changes dramatically.