MANCHESTER — Facing more growth in local enrollment, the Manchester Essex Regional School District is closing the door on any new school choice students looking to come in from other communities for the next school year.
The regional School Committee voted Tuesday night not to open seats for students outside the district despite the fact that school officials said the district has received 248 applications to enroll in the school choice program so far.
Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin recommended the vote, citing that the district simply does not have room for any new incoming school choice students at any grade level. If spots do open up for choice, the committee will hold a lottery for those families who already have children in the Manchester Essex district.
"With 248 new applications, there's really no way we are going to accept any of those," said committee Vice Chairman Greg Caroll.
Since work began on the new regional high school, Manchester Essex Regional School District has seen an increase in enrollment of 3 percent per year — or 163 new students enrolled from within the district alone — over the last three years. Beaudoin said she expects 1,560 students enrolled next year, 118 of which are continuing school choice programs.
Most of the students attending Manchester Essex from beyond the district come from Gloucester and Beverly, said Beaudoin. The student's home districts pay $5,000 per student, per year, to enroll.
The district's latest budget document projected school choice revenue at $599,736.
The district has accepted school choice students to round out classes below the class size limits set by the School Committee in 2004, said Beaudoin. Last year, Manchester Essex offered 17 school choice spots, chosen by a lottery.
But this year, classes don't need that rounding out. Roughly 80 percent of current middle and elementary school classes are at that limit, according to a district budget presentation.
Beaudoin also noted that, even if the district could offer a few seats next year, they would hold them in case additional families moved into Manchester or Essex. She said that the district sees that happen most years.
"We could have two seats and offer them to school choice, only to have four students move into the district," said Beaudoin.
The committee's decision will not effect current students enrolled in the district's school-choice program.
"Once a student is accepted school choice, they're here for their entire school career," said Beaudoin.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.