Mattapoisett School Committee approves, expands school choice

Apr 24, 2018

The Mattapoisett School Committee voted to continue, and expand, school choice at Center School and Old Hammondtown School on Monday night.

In 2013, the committee voted to accept three school choice spots, which allows students from other towns to attend Mattapoisett schools, but hasn’t expanded on it since.

Two of the three students accepted as school choice students back then are still students in Mattapoisett, while the third is not. Committee members decided to continue with the program, which allows those two students to remain in Mattapoisett, and add two more spots.

The spots will be open at the kindergarten and second grade levels, with the stipulation that the two students accepted could both be kindergarteners, or one could be in kindergarten and one in second grade, but two second graders wouldn’t be accepted.

Committee members chose to skip first grade because the class size was already large.

For every school choice student who attends a Mattapoisett school, the district receives $5,000 from the student’s hometown.

Finance Committee Chair Pat Donoghue told the committee she is strongly against school choice because of the costs of adding students.

“The cost we have per student exceeds $15,000 per year,” she said. “The [school choice] rates were set in 1991, and the max rate is $5,000 per student. That hasn’t changed since 1991 but our costs have gone up threefold.”

However, a few residents in attendance spoke up in favor of school choice.

“I’ve always taken great pride in the schools, and I believe school choice is important,” David Anderson said. “I want the town to enlarge the school choice to its maximum…Each student, no matter their background, has something unique to contribute, and each unique contributing student adds something to everybody. I think we should welcome it, not fight it.”

Kimberly Ward noted that at the junior high and high school level, school choice had been used to help balance out rising costs in the budget.

“I love that we have 30 slots at the junior high,” she said. “I would love to see it feed equally from all three towns. I think we should expand it.”

School Committee member James Muse was in favor of school choice, and noted that adding a student to the school wouldn’t cost the school an additional $15,000.

“I’m fully aware of budget challenges,” he said. “[School choice] would add $5,000, and it does make a difference.”

In terms of finances, Anderson wasn’t worried about what adding school choice students would mean.

“If it means increasing my taxes yet again, go for it,” he said.

School Committee members did point out that approving school choice in Mattapoisett was only a guarantee for grades kindergarten to six. Once the student moved on to junior high, it was possible there wouldn’t be a spot for them.

“My question is, what happens to the kids after sixth grade?” Principal Rose Bowman asked. “They could make it through sixth grade here and then not make it to the junior high for seventh grade.”

Ultimately, the committee voted to approve school choice and add the two additional spots.