Lottery Registration and Tuition Increase for Westwood Public Schools Extended Day Program Next Year
Westwood Public Schools’ (WPS') Extended Day Registration will take place as a lottery for the next school year, and program rates will increase to $8.19 per hour, following a vote by School Committee at its February 8th meeting.
The changes to the WPS Extended Day program are said to be a response to community concerns raised to School Committee. Superintendent Timothy Piwowar outlined a proposed new process for Extended Day registration:
- Regarding difficulty of new families accessing the program because preference is given to existing enrolled families, a portion of slots would be set aside for current families to ensure continuity, while a portion of slots would be set aside for new families in interest of fairness.
- Regarding complaints about a registration process that relies on timestamp, slots will be available through a lottery, instead of a first-come-first-served basis.
- Regarding complaints of siblings being unable to all enroll in Extended Day, sibling registration will be promoted by assigning lottery numbers to families instead of to individual students. In cases where Extended Day spaces fill up for one sibling’s grade but spaces remain for another sibling's grade, the family may choose to take the available spot and/or place siblings on a waitlist.
- Regarding the problem of “squatting,” where a family enrolls in Extended Day but the child does not use it very much, a new policy would be implemented so that an Extended Day enrollee who falls below 75 percent attendance in a given month might lose the slot. The open slot could then be assigned to another family.
Additionally, families who do not have a spot with Extended Day would be placed on a waitlist, in the order of time of registration. Enrollment will be capped at 75 percent. A 5 percent tuition increase will be implemented, taking Extended Day away from the past operating deficits, by raising the rate to $8.19 an hour.
In light of the greater demand than existing slots for WPS Extended Day, School Committee members discussed whether to ask registering families to certify that the Extended Day slot is needed for childcare. The issue was raised because some families appear to use it for socialization of children. Vice Chair Amanda Phillips suggested that families needing Extended Day for childcare should be prioritized in enrollments. There was some discussion among members that seemed supportive of that suggestion.
School Committee Clerk Maya Plotkin voiced concern that imposing such new policy would appear to be imposing judgement on what should be an impartial enrollment process. She opined that more thoughtful discussion was needed, and gave the example of a working parent who signs up for Extended Day but subsequently loses a job. Additionally, a person might not be working but still need childcare, she said. She made the point that personal and private needs of each family enrolling in Extended Day are not generally known, and that such policy could pit families against one another.
Superintendent Piwowar and School Committee members appeared to come to agreement that a statement on the registration form indicating prioritization of Extended Day for childcare over any other reason at this time would be premature. The committee may revisit the issue of prioritizing registrations in the future.