School Choice & Charters

Boston Wants Dibs on Catholic Sites

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 07, 2004 1 min read

If Thomas W. Payzant, Boston’s public schools superintendent, has it his way, the Archdiocese of Boston will offer his school district a discount on the sale of former Roman Catholic school buildings.

Thomas W. Payzant

The archdiocese closed seven Catholic schools last school year, merged two, and has scheduled at least one more closure for this school year.

The superintendent wrote a letter to Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley in June, asking for the first right of refusal on the purchase of two Catholic school buildings, should they be put up for sale.

The 58,000-student Boston district is already leasing one of those schools to operate a middle school. The other building mentioned remained a Catholic school after a merger of two archdiocesan schools. But Mr. Payzant has since become interested in two other Catholic school buildings.

Mr. Contompasis, the chief operating officer of the Boston district, said a special deal between the archdiocese and district would make sense because “it would be a way of sustaining the use of the building for which it was intended.”

Should the prices be right, buying Catholic schools would enable the city school district to expand some education programs, Mr. Contompasis said. For example, it needs a new building for a new full-day kindergarten for 4-year-olds.

Typically, the district meets the need for expansion by constructing new buildings, he said.

The Catholic school sites that the superintendent has his eye on are located on “prime pieces of land,” Mr. Contompasis said. “We’re trying to look for a fair price as opposed to what might be a competitive battle among developers that might take us out of the picture,” he said.

So far, the archdiocese hasn’t given Mr. Payzant any assurances. A letter sent by an archdiocesan official to Mr. Payzant was noncommittal, Mr. Contompasis said.

The Boston Archdiocese didn’t respond to a request for elaboration. An archdiocesan official said, however, that the three schools of interest to Mr. Payzant that are not now serving Catholic children had not been sold.

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