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Family and Community Engagement in District Reconfiguration 

Client: Boston Public Schools


How can we help a community understand a complex system and the trade-offs necessary to improve it?


BuildBPS is the City of Boston’s billion-dollar facilities master planning process for the Boston Public Schools. BPS’s current infrastructure and configuration are sorely in need of updating. The majority of its school buildings were built before World War II, and most of them have not since been renovated. On top of this, there are some 20 different grade configurations across the District’s 125 schools, which creates pain points both operationally and for families seeking confidence in their child’s educational pathway.

The District sought to be inclusive and community-driven in its process, but was challenged by the complexity of the reconfiguration work and the decision-making process. We partnered with the District to communicate with community members about the BuildBPS process and to engage them with the work.

The first step was an open house exhibition that showcased the BuildBPS work to date, and provided a vehicle for the system to learn from constituents in an interactive way. BPS highlighted the educational vision driving the facilities master plan, and the exhibition made tangible the challenges the system faces, bringing to life the trade-offs that will be necessary as the District redesigns itself for future decades.

The next step was a series of community engagement sessions in neighborhoods across the city. There were two goals for these sessions: first, to understand how community members prioritized work in their neighborhood — and why; and second, to make real for and with community members the types of hard choices that were necessary as part of BuildBPS.

Our final step was to design the BuildBPS report that summarized the current state-level data that had been collected, and outline the plan for immediate facilities work and for the next phase of the BuildBPS program.

Our mission is to use design to reduce structural inequity in America. Agncy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  © 2020 Agncy Design Inc. 
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