Thursday, February 11, 2010

History of school choice and busing in Somerville

Question/Comment: A resident would like to know what the history of school choice is in Somerville and the decision not to provide busing.  She feels that school choice (versus neighborhood district schools) without busing only results in many more cars on the already crowded streets of Somerville.

City Update 3/19/10:  The Somerville School Committee adopted a Controlled Choice Student Assignment Plan on April 4, 1994 .  There were three goals of this action - expand school choice for parents, promote diversity within each school, and contribute to educational improvement. New programs were initiated such as the dual language Unidos program and kindergarten classes established district-wide.  Analysis of student enrollment shows that approximately 65% of elementary students choose a school outside the "neighborhood school."

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires that Districts provide transportation to elementary students (grades K-6) who live more than 2 miles from their elementary school.  All students, except those in special programs (e.g. SEEK or SKIP) can walk to their elementary school, so the School Department does not have an obligation to provide transportation.  If a parent/guardian chooses a school outside of their neighborhood, they make that choice understanding that they need to provide transportation – walking/biking to school or taking public transportation, carpooling or driving solo.  This is typical in other districts.  The District does direct energies towards promoting walking and biking to school.  The schools promote monthly Walk/Ride Days (last Friday of every month) and have tried, with support from Tufts University and other partners from Shape Up Somerville, to promote walking school busses.

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