The district has, for a number of years, transported students across attendance zones to a small number of large daycare centers as an accommodation. The school system has a responsibility to provide an education to Dracut’s children in the most effective manner possible. We cannot sustain practices that are not cost effective and discourage private business from responding to market forces. We have an obligation to effectively manage public resources so that all available dollars can be devoted to our classrooms.
Further, the district has also followed a practice of allowing students to attend schools in an attendance zone other than their own for daycare or hardship reasons. This practice impacts school enrollments and class sizes. Consistent with expectations, the new attendance zones were developed with census and current school enrollment data specific to the actual residence of the district’s students. The district also took future construction into account, to the degree possible, so that each school had sufficient capacity flexibility to absorb additional students. Given the limited capacity of the district to respond to class size fluctuations, we must put into place a system to minimize movement across attendance zones.
In the days since the School Committee approved the new attendance zones, we have listened to the concerns of families who utilize private daycares. In considering how to reorganize the school district while minimizing the impact of the systemic changes on these families, the district will enact the following processes:
- Students for whom the district has preexisting evidence/permission (from the date of the School Committee’s vote to formally adopt the new attendance zones) to attend a school outside of their attendance area will be allowed to remain in their current school for the 2014-15 school year.
- Those students who have been given prior authorization (see number 1) to attend schools outside of their existing attendance zone and who are currently transported to a private daycare outside of their 14-15 school zone that is adjoining the zone in which the child attends school may still be transported to their existing daycare (if the district has preexisting evidence/permission from the date the School Committee voted to adopt new school zones) for the 2014-15 school year.
- Students may be transported to a licensed daycare in an adjoining attendance area, if that daycare agrees to pay a $200 transportation fee for each student it receives for the 2014-15 school year.
- The district will only transport across attendance zones to daycare facilities. The district will not transport children to residences between attendance zones.
- Allowing the 2014-15 school year to remain as is in regards to school attendance for daycare purposes, class sizes in some grades at some schools may be higher than in others. The district will publish our current anticipated class sizes for 14-15 at each school on the district’s website. Families who have been moved (due to the new 14-15 attendance zone redistricting) to an elementary school zone outside of their current existing daycare may elect (because they either wish to move for class size purposes or because their neighborhood has been moved) to voluntarily move to their new school for the 14-15 school year. As previously stated, the ability to transport students to adjoining zone daycares will remain in effect for the 14-15 school year (with a $200 transportation fee assessed to the daycare to which the child is transported).
- All parents, regardless of their need for daycare accommodations will be asked to complete a form (provided on the district website and sent home through the schools) that documents the status of each child in the elementary schools. Schools will collect those forms in advance of April 30, 2014. After that date the district must set final teacher assignments for the subsequent year according to timelines set out in the collective bargaining agreement between the Dracut School Committee and the Dracut Teachers Association.
- Beginning in the 2015-16 school year students will not be transported between attendance zones.
- Beginning in the 2015-16 school year students will not be allowed to enroll in schools outside of their attendance area without written approval of the building principals involved and the Central Office. Anticipated class size at a school will be the determining factor in the granting of any hardship exceptions.
We believe that a balance has been struck between accommodating parents with daycare needs and the district’s need to reorganize. By providing this accommodation, families and private businesses will have approximately 16 months to resolve private arrangements in time for the 2015-16 school year. Further, over the next few months the district will be responding to the feedback it has received relative to parents’ overwhelming desire to have the schools host before/after school child care. We are actively investigating such a support system.
If you have any questions related to the information contained in this letter please feel free to to speak with your child’s individual school.