School choice defended by ORR school committee

Feb 17, 2021

As enrollment declines in the Old Rochester Regional School District, space has opened up for 27 school choice students.

With over 20 school choice students graduating this year, the 27 students would bring the district up to its 103-student limit.

School choice is a program by which families can opt to send students to schools outside of the school district in which they live. 

ORRHS Principal Michael Devoll said that the high school would be ready and willing to bring in the new students at a Feb. 17 ORR School Committee meeting.

“The high school is open for business,” he said.

Devoll said that after the Class of 2022 graduates with nearly 200 students, the following classes of the high school will be graduating with around 150 students.

“I’ve long said that Old Rochester Regional High School is healthy above 700 students, and we have the potential to dip below that,” Devoll said.

With that decline in enrollment, School Committee member Heather Burke said some of her constituents may wonder why the district doesn’t just stop taking in school choice students to save money.

But with a $5,000 reimbursement coming to the school for each school choice student, school choice is an integral part of the budget.

“This is incremental revenue,” Burke said.

Beyond the extra revenue, Burke noted that school choice adds to the diversity of the school community.

“We feel they bring in a diversity and a different perspective that kids who are raised just in the Tri-Town can benefit from,” Burke said.

And with declining enrollment, school choice students also help fill out classrooms.

“We are actually just filling seats which would otherwise go empty,” Devoll said.

In addition, proposed and ongoing housing projects in the Tri-Town have the potential to help the district recover from enrollment decline.

“That could change our numbers drastically,” Burke said.