With student overcrowding in the Everett public schools increasing at an alarming rate, Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani announced at Monday’s School Committee meeting that preliminary regulations are being drafted for the verification of residency for public school students.
Tahiliani told committee members that she will have a more detailed policy with regulations for their review by their next meeting, adding that many of the surrounding communities have already implemented residency policies.
Some of the items to verify residency of families could be two of the following: parents must supply proof of current utility bills, current bank account information, W-2 forms, letters from landlords verifying that they are current occupants, a current Massachusetts driver’s license, and other forms of identification.
The truancy staff already has been expanded from one person to three and Tahiliani noted that she favors not using the police in helping to enforce the new regulations if approved by the School Committee.
School Committee members were very receptive about the new policy being formulated, with School Committeeman Anthony Barros saying what has been proposed is “excellent.” However, he cautioned that any new regulations should not be made so arduous such that they could violate a child’s rights.
He also noted that many school-age children have just arrived from the Ukraine and some of the documentation that is needed may not be in their possession.
Several committee members proposed adding passports as another means to verify residency.
On this point, School Committee member Millie Cardillo said, “I totally agree on passports, since a lot of people do not drive.”
During the course of discussion on the proposed new policy, it was noted that the staff at the Parent Information Center would bear the brunt of compiling the identification information and that its staff consists of only four people, who might not be able to adequately handle the volume of work.
This fact prompted discussion on using interns from colleges to help with the administrative task. However, Barros noted that privacy laws may prohibit the use of interns to help process the needed information.
Committee member Samantha Lambert made an impassioned plea, asking residents not to become zealous in trying to implement the new policy wrongfully. Lambert said she hopes the new policies will not lead to “stalking our kids.”
She said that she has heard from some residents who have alleged that they have seen some students get on public transportation buses and either arrive in Everett in the morning or leave the city at night. However, she noted that there could be many legitimate reasons for students coming and going.
She pointed out that students use buses to go to after-school jobs in Somerville or Boston, and that many students take extra classes at Bunker Hill Community College.
Toward the end of the discussion, Tahiliani noted that while there could be students from outside the district attending Everett schools, there could be Everett students attending schools in other districts.
After all is said and done, “This could be a zero sum game,” of trying to reduce the overcrowding in local schools, she said.
While the current student overcapacity stands at 1,204 students, Tahiliani noted at a recent meeting of the City Council that last year only 100 students were expelled from local schools for not being Everett residents.