By Kate Anslinger
There was no shortage of willing speakers at Monday evening’s School Committee meeting, as parents came out to express their opinions about the school choice program.
Every year around this time, the School Committee is tasked with voting for or against the program, and if the topic gets ignored then the district automatically adopts the program.
The parents of Winthrop students didn’t take any chances. They showed up and expressed their reasons for voting ‘no’ on school choice. The most common concern among committee members and parents was the potential growth in class sizes due to the additional students who would come to Winthrop from other districts.
The program also offers local students and their families alternatives to non-Winthrop publicly provided schools that aren’t normally afforded, due to proximity of the family’s residence.
“I chose to raise my children in Winthrop because I wanted to create that small town feel for them,” said resident John Munson, who hails from a small town in Maine. “What does it do to our tight-knit-safe-haven of a Town if 40 potential school choice students come into our district? It’s not our job to make everyone happy. We have to take care of the people who are here and who have paid their taxes all along.”
Currently, none of the surrounding communities have adopted the school choice program. In order to send your child to a school choice school your home school district also has to adopt the program.
“Our children will lose out on opportunities if we adopt school choice,” said Caroline Cash Gagnon, who spoke on behalf of several residents. “You should have to be a Winthrop resident to attend Winthrop Public Schools.”
Gagnon also brought up the fact that there is a fear of recruiting athletes from other municipalities to play in the Winthrop district, which would lessen opportunities for the student athletes who live here currently.
Student growth is on the rise by 5.8 percent, which already has an impact on growing class sizes and the influx of 40 school choice students would add to the stress of teachers being able to accommodate all students.
Substitute teacher and resident Bill Forsyth witnessed the impact that classroom size has on students and teachers firsthand. While substituting in a classroom a couple of weeks ago during the Patriots parade, eight students were absent. He overheard a teacher say, “I can get around to all of you today.”
While the majority protested school choice, there were some who shared how the program had personally affected them.
“This is a program that has directly made an impact on me and several friends. When a friend of mine was bullied at another school, he was able to use school choice to get away from the daily threats. This isn’t my agenda to push it forward. I can’t vote against something that I know has made a profound impact on myself and so many others,” said School Committee member Valentino Capobianco, who came to Winthrop as a school choice student for the 2003-2004 school year, before his family purchased a home in the town.
Ultimately, the committee voted in favor of no school choice for the 2017-2018 school year.