By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — This year the METCO program has met a milestone.
The program, an initiative for students in urban communities to receive their education at suburban schools, is celebrating its 45th year.
The program is a partnership between Boston and 38 communities, including Wakefield.
To mark the occasion, METCO Director Joel Villegas and four students enrolled in the program attended Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Said one METCO student, “Diversity should bring us together.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike upheld the student’s comment: “We should be celebrating diversity all the time. METCO is extremely valuable (in that regard).”
Villegas and the students said they are looking forward to celebrating “international night” next spring, which could include a fashion show, food from other cultures and a showing of maps from various world regions.
Villegas said that many events have been planned, which will take place during the second half of the school year.
“We will be celebrating the success of the culture and racial diversity that exists in our school community,” he said. “We’re looking forward to celebrating this auspicious occasion with both our Wakefield and Boston communities.”
In May, school board members held their regularly scheduled school board meeting in Roxbury where they were able to speak with parents and students. METCO is based in Roxbury and members said they were looking forward to returning next year.
Earlier this year, Villegas said that the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had allotted Wakefield’s program $252,759 for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Of that total, $3,447 was apportioned to each of the 53 METCO students enrolled in Wakefield, and an additional $1,509 would go toward each student’s transportation.
Broken down by school, there are 21 METCO students at the high school, 21 at the middle school, nine at the Greenwood School and two at the Dolbeare.
Villegas gave a brief history about the program, stating that it has been in existence since 1966 and got its start when a group of African-American parents and white educators met to discuss possibilities.
Today, METCO promotes diversity and enhanced education opportunities for more than 3,300 Boston and Springfield students, while reducing racial isolation of suburban school districts and segregation in city schools, according to literature about the program. Currently, 38 communities in Greater Boston and Springfield participate.
“No family is ever turned away if a child wants to participate,” said Villegas, “and when there’s a waiting list, siblings of students already participating are given priority.”
Enrollment, he added, is “going up every year.”