Sunday, June 16, 2024

whitespace

The King Open School, which includes the Olá Bilingual Program, has been called a “Level 3″ or underperforming school based on MCAS scores.

The King Open School includes the Olá Bilingual Program.

The “Olá 4” got good news, said James Maloney, chief operating office of the school department, at Tuesday’s meeting of the School Committee. He stopped short of an outright guarantee that the families’ kids were getting into the Olá Bilingual Program.

The issue was that the four families with children already in the program failed to get a seat for their younger child in this year’s kindergarten lottery. Not only were they wait listed, but many were far down on the wait list – apparently the first time sibling preference failed to secure seats in the lottery process, official said.

Among the wait listed families was Odete Silva, who has two other children already in the program and is the assistant teacher in the Olá kindergarten classroom.

A parent at the Martin L. King Jr. School’s Mandarin bilingual problem gave public testimony at an earlier School Committee meeting that his second child was caught in a similar situation.

Maloney said his “confidence was very, very high” there was a remedy for families in both programs. The families are applying as hardships under the controlled choice policy, and Maloney said he was confident “that they will be reviewed favorably” and moved to the top of the wait list.

Already, since the lottery, there is one new vacant seat in the Olá kindergarten class, he said, and fe will over-enroll the class by three seats to accommodate the other families. He expects to see further attrition from children assigned to the class. In the past three years, he said, that class has opened up from one to five seats between spring and September. If “we are still in trouble by the end of the summer,” he will work with the principal of the King Open School, which houses the program, to manage across Olá and the regular King Open kindergartens.

Olá parents said they were cautiously optimistic but want to see the final resolution quickly. They need to see three more seats open up from among the assigned kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students before they are guaranteed a seat in the classroom.

All five families originally filled out the January lottery applications at their school with their family liaison, a process followed citywide for families with children already in their chosen school. The families did not hear from the Family Resource Center and were all caught off guard to get a standard letter saying they did not get their first choice.

The families were caught in an unforeseen consequence of a policy change enacted last year, which separated the kindergarten and the junior kindergarten lotteries. By separating lottery strands, this year’s current junior kindergarteners rolled over into the kindergarten spots, new junior kindergarten spots were filled in their separate lottery and no or very few seats were left vacant for new kindergartners. If a student was ineligible for junior kindergarten, they were effectively shut out.

Maloney promised that a solution to the “anomaly,” as he called it, is in the works to avoid the problem in the future.

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