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School Committee: No Out-Of-Town Students at Wakefield Schools

The Wakefield School Committee voted unanimously to remain a non-school choice district during its May 24 meeting.

No out-of-town students will be allowed to attend Wakefield Schools next year, the decided, voting unanimously to remain a non-school choice district for the coming school year at its May 24th meeting.

The decision followed a speech by , the School Committee’s business administrator, who presented his recommendations to the Committee and the reasoning behind those recommendations.

“The current status is that we are a non-school choice district,” Connelly said. “And the administration’s recommendation to the committee this evening is that we remain a non-receiving school choice district.”

What it means
Had Wakefield become a school choice district, the result would have been that non-resident students could have the opportunity to enroll in a Wakefield school of their choice, provided that the school had the space available to take them, and the costs of enrolling the non-resident student would then be reimbursed by the state.

Connelly explained that given the current economic situation and the uncertain nature of future budgets, the costs of becoming a school choice district would outweigh the benefits.

“Adopting school choice, under current fiscal constraints, we feel would not be a wise decision at this point in time,” Connelly said. “With the recent FY12 Budget Cuts, which has led to some personnel reductions, many of the schools are already understaffed which potentially high class sizes. New school choice revenue would be needed to increase staff and not enhance programs.”

Connelly also explained that the revenues gained by adopting school choice would be inconsequential in the long run.

“School choice revenue could infuse the school department with additional revenue in year one,” Connelly said. “However in future years it would have no impact on the school budget.”

The lack of any meaningful long-term boost in revenue was of particular concern, Connelly said, because of the likelihood that the school’s budget might be reduced down the road, eliminating any gains the school choice adoption would have brought and causing new strains in the process.

“In future fiscal years, the town could continue to reduce the school budget, causing the benefit of school choice funds to be lost,” Connelly said. “Future residential projects, or a sudden influx of families with school age children in Wakefield could eliminate any access enrollment space that now exists, cause school choice students are allowed to remain in Wakefield until they graduate, which could cause additional space constraints.”

The fact that no other local school districts have adopted school choice was also a concern.

“Neighboring school systems that are also experiencing fiscal problems over the past few fiscal years could be penalized by a loss of Chapter 70 revenue if Wakefield becomes a school choice program,” Connelly said. “Currently there are no local nearby communities that are school choice systems, that includes Reading, Stoneham, Lynnfield, Melrose, Danvers and Saugus.”

After Connelly concluded his recommendations, the committee immediately moved to vote on having Wakefield remain a non-school choice district. The motion passed unanimously and will remain in effect for the coming school year.

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