BOSTON — METCO parents got to weigh in Monday night on a proposal to change the admission process for the integration program.
The 50-year-old program that buses Boston students to suburban neighborhoods has a waiting list of more than 8,000 for just 300 slots per year.
After more than 50 years, a change could be coming to METCO.
"We have a waitlist of 15,000 people that has yielded only four percent on that waitlist that come back to turn in applications," said Milly Arbaje-Thomas, METCO.
The school integration program that places Boston students of color in suburban school districts wants to update its admission process from word of mouth advertising and in-office applications to an online process and lottery selection system.
"This is gonna allow us to be an online platform in multiple languages and will be able to reach every neighborhood, so whoever is a person of color who wants to be a part of this program should be able to have access to it," said Arbaje-Thomas.
Boston city councilor Kim Janey is the vice chair of the education committee and a METCO kid herself.
"Those who know, know you have to go as soon as your child is born to get them on the waitlist because the waitlist is five years long," said Janey.
Latarsha Williams took part in the program, attending Wakefield High. Now, two of her children are METCO students.
"It's excellent. It's amazing," she said.
Michelle Carter signed her now 6-year-old daughter up when she was 3 weeks old. She's still waiting for a METCO seat and mostly supports online enrollment.
“I do but there may need to be tweeks for individuals who may not know how to use a computer," Carter said.
But Williams is against it, saying the current system works because parents must work.
“And when you put them to work for the children’s education then you get a more of a committed group of people," Williams said.
She also thinks the lottery system is bad for people like Michelle, who have been waiting for years to get a seat.
“They could have spent 5-6 years on the waiting list and now they’re put in the lottery some person who just randomly signed up. If they get in over them, how is that fair?” Williams said.
A recent Harvard University report shows "the four-year graduation rate for METCO students was 30 percent higher than their Boston Public or Charter school counterparts... and... have a college enrollment rate that's 30 percent higher."
"I understand the need for METCO and the need is simply that we're not doing what we can in terms of improving quality," said Janey.
Boston city councilor Annissa Assabi-George is education chair and a mom of four.
"Often they're going for not just the academics, but for some of those enrichment activities. The extra and the athletics," said Assabi-George. "We need to do what we should be doing in the City of Boston to make METCO not desirable for any kid."
METCO's director says the future of the program doesn't lay with providing innercity students suburban experiences, it's the other way around.
"What these students are doing to really integrate into these communities, to give a different perspective, it's really opening the doors for a global society," said Arbaje-Thomas.
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