Varied results for school choice across Wareham schools

Mar 10, 2024

The School Committee voted at a meeting on Thursday, March 7 to leave Wareham open for school choice students. However, it did so after hearing from elementary and high school principals that they could not accept school choice students at this time due to a lack of space in their classes. 

The School Board voted to accept school choice at all grades for the 2024-25 school year, with the consideration that each school could continue to deny school choice students if it did not have room for them.

School choice is a Massachusetts policy that lets parents enroll their children in a district outside of where they live. A school district can decide for each of its grades whether to allow school choice students or not; however, even if a district opts in to school choice, students will only be accepted if the school decides there is space in its classes. 

Elementary school principal Bethany Chandler said she was concerned about opting into school choice, due to the school’s high enrollment and the limited number of teachers available. 

Chandler said she was concerned with enrollment going up, due to new construction resulting in new apartments. “I think that the enrollment is going to be extremely high for [academic year 2024-25],” Chandler said. 

The size of the elementary school building is another cause for concern, especially if the school population grows. 

School Committee Member Apryl Rossi said when the school was built in 2021, the enrollment figures at that time were used to determine the school’s size, “with a little bit of wiggle room, because that’s the only thing that they’re allowed to do,” she said. 

While people may think of the school as large, “I don’t think people understand that you guys were pretty much, when the doors opened, almost at capacity,” she said. 

The middle school doesn’t have the same circumstances. Middle school principal Tracie Cote said the school had space available; each grade has a cap of 10 school choice students, and she usually doesn’t get that many, she said. 

However, the high school expressed similar concerns as the elementary school about class size. 

“I don’t think I’ve approved a school choice student in probably almost two years,” said high school principal Scott Palladino.

The primary reason was current enrollment; Palladino said the school can’t find enough teachers for the students it has, and it can’t take on extra students. 

Palladino also said the high school had previous bad experiences with school choice students. 

Students looking to switch schools through school choice at the High School level often were trying to “get a reset” or avoid “attendance, grade, discipline issues — it hasn’t been a great option for high school,” he said.