SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 21, 2013

Beverly welcomes choice students

Despite overcrowding, schools still have room in some grade levels

BEVERLY — The Beverly Public School district is seeking students from other communities even as officials cite “severe overcrowding” as a reason it needs a new middle school.

The district sent out a press release last month announcing that it is accepting letters of request to enroll in Beverly through the school choice program, which allows parents to send their children to schools in other communities.

At the same time, officials are planning to cite “severe overcrowding” in their application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for funding for a new middle school.

School districts can choose not to participate in school choice, but the Beverly School Committee has voted for the past several years to take part in the program, which the state began in 1991.

School Committee President Maria Decker acknowledged that an overcrowded school district accepting out-of-town students seems like an “oxymoron.” But she said school administrators will accept school choice students only in grades where they will not push class sizes over the limit.

“The administration looks at it and says, ‘We have room with this group of students to take a handful of students and will not make the classroom size excessive,’” Decker said.

Beverly has 66 school choice students in its schools this year, according to figures from the Massachusetts Department of Education. Tuition must be paid by the students’ home districts, so Beverly is receiving $356,179 in tuition, an average of $5,397 per student, according to the state.

Decker said the extra revenue in some cases can allow the high school to add another session of a particular class to accommodate more students, thus reducing class sizes.

Mayor Bill Scanlon said bringing in school choice students enables the district to add revenue “without adding any costs.”

As for reconciling overcrowded schools with accepting out-of-town students, Scanlon said, “One is at a macro level, and the other is at a micro level.”

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