Saturday, May 18, 2024

As the Olá “Sibling 4” families, we want to thank you for bringing attention to our situation in the article “Program’s Sibling preference fails, parents say; officials question how to help school.” We would also like to clarify a couple of points. First, the root cause of the problem stems from the School Committee’s ruling in June to limit the number of incoming kindergartners to the capacity of the first-grade classrooms. This ruling had serious consequences for the Olá program, which has a single JK/kindergarten classroom and a single first-/second-grade classroom.

The maximum capacity of any first-/second-grade classroom is between 22 and 25 students, so it was determined that the maximum capacity of Olá first-grade was 12 students (with the remaining seats going to second-graders). There are nine JK children in the program who will roll up to kindergarten next year. In addition, there were three kindergarten spots held for “retention,” or to allow an existing child to repeat kindergarten. That effectively meant that there were no kindergarten spots available for this year’s lottery. This same pattern will continue to occur, should there be a high number of incoming JK children. If your child is not old enough to enter JK, as in our situation, it will be extremely difficult for him/her to secure a spot in kindergarten.

Second, as parents with older children in Olá, we eagerly selected Olá as the first choice for our younger children, on our own – not with encouragement from the Family Resource Center. But because no one anticipated the effect of the class size ruling on Olá, the assumption across the board was that sibling bonus points would ensure a spot for each of our children. We were asked to register through the school in December/January instead of going to the FRC to streamline the process, which made it seem it was a given our children would be part of the program.

Typically, if a family has made a risky selection for their first choice, the protocol is for the FRC to call the family to alert them to that risk, so they have the opportunity to make changes. Because everyone was blindsided by this situation, we did not get word of the lack of seats until the lottery results were mailed to us last week. On top of this, we learned that we have relatively low positions on the overall wait list, making it unlikely our children will be given a spot.

We are hoping this problem can be remedied by increasing the Olá kindergarten capacity, through converting open JK spots or creating an additional JK/kindergarten classroom. The Olá program (and King Open proper) will likely be moving to a single-grade structure for grades 1-4 very soon, so these solutions seem quite feasible, particularly since there is already a sizable wait list.

Our families absolutely love the Olá program. Our older children are thriving in the program, and we could never have imagined that our younger children would not be part of it. We are interested in working collaboratively with the School Committee and the FRC on a solution that will enable our children to begin the program in the Fall, as we had always expected.

Carin and Cristiano Nuernberg
Hanh Bui and Andrew Fairbairn
Lisa and Jaime d’Almeida
Odete and Marcos Silva

Next story: If failure of sibling-preference policy was first, committee insists there be no second