Mayor Michelle Wu announced an investment of more than $2 billion as part of a Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools Thursday.
"Activists, scientists, leaders at every level of government are sounding the alarm for us to address the climate and public health crises of our time and to recover economically from COVID-19," Wu said. "Now is the time for bold decisive action. We must implement a Green New Deal, and Boston must lead the way."
Wu laid out the plan to overhaul facilities in the district, including new construction and renovation projects, during a news conference Thursday with other school officials at the McKinley Elementary School in Boston's South End.
Wu referenced President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's promise to the country 90 years ago through the New Deal, which involved programs and public works projects that addressed multiple crises at the time to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression, tackle infrastructure issues and bring about jobs.
"We know today that the one major shortfall of the New Deal then was in not leaning into and making sure that racial equity was also a key part of that focus," Wu said. "Today we're here to carry on that legacy but correct and repair that piece of it."
The plan will be kickstarted by a $605 million investment in the FY23-27 Capital Plan to launch 14 major new projects, including at the McKinley School, Wu said. The city also created a new cross departmental team, with leadership from Boston Public Schools and City Hall, to ensure that students have access to quality facilities.
"We're starting right here -- literally right here -- with buildings like this one," Wu said. "And that will not only again give our young people and educators the healthy inspiring spaces they deserve, but reduce our cities carbon footprint, strengthen the ties of community and democracy."
"I visited the McKinley School, I came back and I cried in my office that we were providing this kind of environment to our kids who are most in need," Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said. "The projects in this plan are projects that serve some of our most vulnerable students. And so centering equity, like the mayor said, is just absolutely critical to the work that we're doing as we move forward."
The Green New Deal is intended to accelerate work to decarbonize the city’s building sector, since Boston Public School facilities make up nearly half of city-owned building emissions.
"Because of the ambitious work ahead of us, upgrading all of our school facilities will be a decade's long project, and we need a clear reliable timeline to deliver the effective, efficient results at our communities deserve," Wu said.
A 2017 study showed that many Boston Public School buildings were in poor condition. Many were built in the 1950s, Wu said, and lack quality HVAC systems and clean drinking water.
"The current state of many of our schools facilities compromises the health of our students, our educators, our communities, and directly impacts educational opportunity," Wu said. "These improvements are long overdue, decades overdue in many cases."
The announcement came on the heels of the mayor’s plan to spend $788 million on school capital projects. The money would be used on construction projects at six schools in Boston — including the McKinley School, according to the Boston Globe.