By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD —Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike cited challenging space issues, including the new full-day kindergarten program coming in September, as one of the reasons the Wakefield school district should remain a “no school choice” district during a public hearing held at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“This is not a prudent time to offer school choice,” said Zrike, adding that the population at Wakefield Memorial High School continues to grow.
“School choice would mean having to accept kids from other communities,” he said. “Our interest is really to increase the METCO population.” METCO, formally known as the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, allows students in 37 Boston area and Springfield communities to attend public schools in communities that have agreed to participate in the program. In Wakefield, 51 students were enrolled as of Oct. 1, 2013.
School board members agreed with Zrike and voted unanimously to keep Wakefield a “no school choice” district.
No one from the community spoke for or against school choice during the public hearing.
School choice allows non-resident students to enroll in a Wakefield school of their choice, provided that the school has available space. The costs to educate non-resident students would then be reimbursed by the state. In recent years, budget cuts led to personnel reductions, leaving some classrooms understaffed.
Though school choice revenue could infuse the district with additional money in the first year, revenue in future yeas would have no impact on the school budget.
Currently, the only school districts in the area that offer school choice are Melrose and Burlington.
Other districts, including Lynnfield, Reading, Stoneham and North Reading, do not offer school choice.
Dr. Zrike said the name of the new Walton School principal will be announced soon. He and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith are also reviewing candidates for the Health, Wellness and Athletic Director position. Michael Boyages currently holds the position but plans to retire at the end of the school year.
In other school business, PARCC testing will begin on Monday, May 4 and continue through Thursday, May 20.
Also, next week — Monday, May 4 through Friday, May 8 — has been designated as “Walk to School Week.” Commuters are asked to exercise extreme caution while driving to accommodate the increase in pedestrian traffic.