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City Council concerned about lack of practice time for Boston students at Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury

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Councilors said they were disappointed to see reports that BPS students are practicing in school hallways while the world-class center is used by suburban districts for track meets.

High school students compete during the Patriot League Indoor Track & Field Championship at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in February 2023. Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe

This week, Boston City councilors expressed their frustration with reports that the use of the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury is being disproportionately allotted to suburban students, to the detriment of student athletes in Boston Public Schools. 

Councilor Erin Murphy introduced a resolution during Wednesday’s meeting to “reclaim” the facility.

“What I mean by ‘reclaim’ is take back what was promised to us as a city,” she said. 

Murphy’s resolution was unanimously adopted by the City Council, and there was support for a hearing so that school officials and others could elaborate on the situation. When the center opened in 1995, there was an understanding between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the state government that Boston residents would “benefit first on use” before surrounding suburbs, Murphy said. The center is state-owned.

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But in the years since, BPS students have had their practice time at the center’s world-class indoor track whittled away by demands from suburban schools. Murphy cited a recent Dorchester Reporter piece that shed light on the issue. 

Due in part to an explosion in the popularity of track and field programs, demand for practice time at the center has skyrocketed, according to the Reporter. BPS students, like those at TechBoston Academy, are being forced out of the center by 3:30 or 4 p.m. so that suburban schools can hold meets there. At TechBoston, classes let out at 2:30 p.m., giving student athletes a small window to use the track. 

Instead, they are resorting to training in school hallways, according to the Reporter. This not only opens the athletes up to a greater risk of injury, it can endanger others in the school hallways who may not be on the lookout for students sprinting down the halls. 

“I’m really disappointed that a city kid is unable to use the facility and that some wealthy kid from Weston or Duxbury has the opportunity to compete,” Council President Ed Flynn said. “The day we stop supporting kids from the city and not giving them the same opportunities as wealthy families throughout Greater Boston is really the day we should get out of politics, if we’re not defending city kids.”

Michael Turner, the executive director of the center, told the Reporter that in the two months since he took the position he has been working on a draft policy paper on usage. This would ideally include increased access for BPS students, and Turner hopes to have new rules in place by the beginning of next year’s season. 

BPS is the only school district that gets any practice time at the center, Norwell High Coach Chuck Martin told the Reporter. Indoor tracks are few and far between in Massachusetts, and many student athletes across the state train outside or in hallways. Martin, who helps manage the center as a member of the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association, acknowledged that BPS students face unique challenges such as relying on the MBTA and that he has a lot of respect for those student athletes and their families. 

Councilor Julia Mejia said that she has seen students practicing in the halls of Dorchester High School firsthand, and that access to athletics must be protected because sports help students deal with trauma and mental health issues. Mejia called on her colleagues to not lose sight of issues relating to class. 

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“Some people have, and some people have not. And I think it’s unfortunate that those who have not continue to have less and those who have enough continue to take more,” she said. 

Source: Boston Globe

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