HARVARD — To raise $380,000 in the coming school year, the Harvard Public Schools will educate 78 School Choice students.
School Superintendnet Joseph Connelly noted that there will be 13 Choice students graduating this year, creating slots for 13 more students. Connelly targeted 13 Choice slots for the coming school year in kindergarten, second-grade and sixth-grade where the added students “make the most sense.”
Bromfield grades 7-12 are “already untouchable” with 24 students per class, on average, said Connelly.
Connelly suggested adding four kindergarten, four second-grade, and five sixth-grade Choice slots for the fall.
Connelly also noted there may be four full-day kindergarten classes in the fall, with students who wish to attend for only half day sessions leaving at lunchtime.
Piali De urged instead the choice slots not be provided in kindergarten but instead in sixth grade. “We don’t want to just fill in with Choice just to preserve the status quo. I’m not sure we want to jump in and through choice generate that fourth (kindergarten) class.”
De wondered whether Harvard households without school-aged children would want to subsidize out-of-town Choice students, who carry with them $5,000 each from the student’s host community. “We have to look at this carefully.”
Connelly said there are already 22 applications for Choice students without any advertising, with seven requests for kindergarten placement.
“Every year the demand is always for kindergarten,” said De. “We’ve never not filled a kindergarten Choice slot.”
De said it makes sense for “parents to get their child positioned for the long haul.”
But De looked at the figures and discovered there are already12 Choice fifth-grade students now. “So that’s the one moving into sixth grade?” she said with a sigh. “Well that’s a big problem.”
“We gave this an awful lot of time and attention,” said Connelly. “Our motivation was to try to generate the enrollments to justify the existing structure.”
Chairman Keith Cheveralls agreed with De’s concern. “I don’t want to be bolstering class sizes artificially ”
“But we want the four (kindergarten) sections,” said committee member SusanMary Redinger.
“Every year you’re not going to be able to do it,” said De. “In the future, we’ll have to subsidize a whole class with Choice. Choice is a loss of money.”
De noted that it costs $13,000 to educate a Harvard resident student, but that a Choice students carry with them just $5,000 each to the Harvard schools in the form of revenue.
Ultimately the committee voted 3-1, with De dissenting and Cheveralls abstaining, to approve the 13 Choice student slots as suggested by Connelly.
Follow Mary Arata on Twitter.com/maryearata.