Watertown Public School officials must decide whether it makes more sense for the town to join the Minuteman Vocational Technical High School District, continue to send children as a non-member, or find some other option for vocational education.
At Monday’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent Dede Galdston said the district continues to research what will be best for the students of Watertown, but one parent advocate for joining Minuteman said the district is not moving fast enough.
Watertown currently sends dozens of students to the vocational high school in Lexington. Last year, there were so many students that they more than filled a 53-student school bus. The Watertown Public Schools pay the tuition for the students to attend Minuteman.
Joining the Minuteman District is not as simple as saying Watertown wants to join, Galdston said. The Town would have to apply and the communities that are already part of the district must approve adding Watertown. Currently there are 10 member communities.
“If we want to join the district, we need to decide no later than November or December this year for September of 2020,” Galdston said.
Watertown School officials will put together a report this fall to look at the costs of joining vs. staying a tuition-paying district, and look at other pros and cons. Galdston said the district will also look at other programs that offer vocational programs, outside of Minuteman.
Last year, Watertown officials looked at the cost of tuition compared to the cost of dues Watertown would pay to be a member of the Minuteman District, and found it costs less to remain a tuition-paying district, Galdston said.
“That doesn’t mean membership doesn’t have its privileges,” Galdston said.
School Committee member Eileen Hsu Balzer said that she thinks the decisions should not just be made on a financial basis, but also what the district gets for being a member should be considered.
Parent Ilana Mainelli has advocated for Watertown joining the Minuteman District, in part because a new school is being built there and officials anticipate that more students will be interested in attending. This could mean fewer students from Watertown being accepted.
Mainelli told the School Committee that they should look at what one neighboring district did.
“Belmont pulled out of Minuteman because they thought that there were better cheaper options, but when they looked at it they found out that the better option was to try to rejoin Minuteman,” Mainelli said. “They found the options were not there or were not able to accommodate their students.”
On Monday, Mainelli said she was disappointed that there had not been more progress made toward deciding whether Watertown should join the district. The report given Monday, Mainelli said, sounded much the same as the one given in November 2017. She fears this will impact students applying for next fall.
“What happens with this year’s eighth graders with the application cycle and deciding where to go?” Mainelli said.
The Minuteman considers two groups of applicants, those from member districts and then those from outside the district. Mainelli said Minuteman won’t know in which group Watertown students should be placed.
She also fears that fewer Watertown students will choose to go to Minuteman, which will skew Watertown’s decision whether to join or not.