BPS students demand ‘new rules, clean schools’ in City Hall Plaza rally

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Several dozen students from Boston Public Schools rallied on City Hall Plaza Tuesday to make their needs heard by Mayor Michelle Wu.

In a letter addressed to the mayor, students wrote that, “For years, BPS students have had trouble learning in an unhealthy environment without enough resources, investment, and support.”

Simone Frederick said that at Boston Latin Academy, where she is a senior, there are issues with the school’s basic physical condition.

“Some parts of the building are really deteriorating,” Frederick said. “If we had those issues fixed, people would have a better environment to learn and to teach in.”

The letter included a list of demands that include: physical upgrades, such as fixing walls, making bathrooms accessible for students with disabilities and clean water; making schools more sustainably powered; and increasing access to spaces that include libraries, gyms and science labs.

Osasenaga Famous, a senior at the John D. O’Bryant School, said her school’s HVAC system affects her time in the classroom.

“It’s always too cold or too hot,” she said. “Today, I went here for second period and it was too cold in that classroom, so I needed to take a break. So I just went out in the hallway and then I went back in, just to take a break.”

George Alves, a 2022 graduate of City on a Hill Charter School, said he faced similar frustrations at the independently run school.

“The classrooms would be hot … the water fountains were always out of date, the water would come out dirty,” Aves said. “Students can’t focus under those conditions,” he added.

The list of demands also includes educational changes, with calls for more diversity in the school curriculum and hiring more educators of color.

BPS did not immediately return a request for comment.

Liam Quinn, youth programs director for the Massachusetts Coalition of Occupational Safety and Health, has been working with BPS students on their demands since November.

“The students are kind of united with teachers in advocating for the district to do better about retaining, hiring and recruiting teachers of color and making sure they feel supported in staying on at BPS in the long run,” Quinn told GBH News.

Students’ chants — including “New rules, clean schools” and “Hey hey, ho ho, racist schools have got to go” — couldn’t be heard in person by Wu, who is abroad ahead of attending a climate summit at the Vatican.

“We’re here to kind let the mayor know her constituents are frustrated about BPS, and they want to be let into the room where those decisions are being made,” Quinn said. “And for too long they’ve been kept out.”

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