Scrolling Headlines:

UMass hockey competes hard, falls to No. 10 Providence College in overtime -

February 26, 2017

Overtime goal hands UMass hockey its 15th straight loss in regular season finale -

February 26, 2017

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous gives talk at UMass -

February 25, 2017

Anti-racism workshop teaches tactics to fight oppression in community -

February 25, 2017

Providence power play haunts UMass hockey in 6-2 loss -

February 25, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 10 Providence on Senior Night at the Mullins center -

February 25, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Judy Dixon enters final season with UMass tennis with simple message: One match at a time -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball enduring early-season limitation in playing in New England -

February 23, 2017

Minutewomen softball begins season with cross-country travel, string of tournaments -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball looks to bounce back from disappointing 2016 season -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior Hannah Murphy is Angela McMahon’s latest legend in the making -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior defenders accept leadership roles in quest for ninth consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship -

February 23, 2017

Kelsey McGovern rejoins UMass women’s lacrosse as an assistant coach after starring for Minutewomen -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to continue improving throughout 2017 season -

February 23, 2017

Ware have all the students gone?

Ware students stand shivering in the morning twilight at 5:45 a.m., waiting for a bus to take them to schools in the Quabbin Regional School District, 12 miles away in Barre, Mass. A lack of funding in the Ware public schools has caused many fretting parents to look elsewhere for their children’s education‑- even if it means an hour less sleep.

But School Committee Chairman Christopher Desjardins blames poor marketing for Ware’s scholastic unpopularity over any other reason.

As a result, he and other committee members are attempting to hoist Ware schools out of the mire with radical–if not hacking–logic: change the school choice-law in Massachusetts which allows parents to send their children to schools in other towns, the Springfield Republican reported.

The law, which was passed in 1991, is one of convenience. But for Ware, school-choice has turned education into a financial competition between neighboring schools, and it seems to be losing.

Last year, according to the Republican, Ware witnessed an exodus of 159 students to the Quabbin Regional School District in Barre. Ware would have received $5,000 in state aid for each student, amounting to some $857, 780. But state-aid accompanies students to whichever school their parents choose for them to go, regardless of where they actually live. There lies the controversy and dilemma.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education web site, Quabbin regional school district received 407 students from surrounding communities and $2.2 million in state aid.

While 24 students did come into Ware’s district last year, bringing with them $167,391 in state assistance, the trend is painfully apparent.

Only 438 students attend Ware High School, with a teacher-student ratio of 1:17; at Quabbin Regional there are 1,014 students, with the same ratio.

Thirty-six percent of Ware High students receive some form of discounted lunch, while only 10 percent of Quabbin Regional students do. The median income of a Quabbin Regional student’s household is nearly $13,000 more than a student at Ware High.

Whether parental alarm owes to a crumbling Ware school district or to a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality is unclear; but if the profile of Quabbin Regional High is any indication, the downtrend will probably continue for Ware schools.

Of course, the demographics don’t tell of a weak infrastructure in Ware High School; in fact, parent reviews of each school are about equal, according to greatschools.org. But for parents hesitating between the two, the profile of Quabbin Regional would likely clinch their decision.

Despite the grim statistics, Desjardins believes that Ware schools aren’t any worse than Quabbin ones. His message to parents is clear:

“They have to get on a bus at 20 of 6 (in the morning), and they get no better education than they could get here,” he told the Springfield Republican.

In an attempt to tether students to local schools, Ware has added music programs at middle and high school levels and extended communication with parents.

But with dwindling resources, Ware schools can only do so much. That’s why Desjardins asked School Committee Representatives from Easthampton, Southwick, North Brookfield and Greenfield to support their case against the school-choice law.

“We’ve done pretty much all we can marketing-wise, now we need to start thinking about something with the law. It’s going to be a bear of a fight,” Desjardins said.

Desjardins knows that his committee has a long shot at the school choice law. He and other supporters hope that Ware’s cry for help will at least lead to a revision in the law, which might alleviate some of the financial burdens on towns like his.

But no amount of money can efface the reputation Ware High School will have if another 159 students leave next year. The drop off rate from grade 8 to grade 12 already sways close to 50 percent, with only 65 seniors in a class once 120 strong.

No amount of poster-boarding or teary-eyed PTA’s will rake in students to schools that have been branded as discreditable by the omniscient parental majority.

So what happens to Ware students who can’t make it to Quabbin Regional schools? Do they get stuck sharing books and a bad reputation?

Not necessarily. If Ware parents keep sending their kids to local schools, money and confidence will return-like the stock market. But students leaving Ware High leave it more cash-strapped and bereft of aplomb than it already was.

If it’s just a matter of marketing like Desjardins says, Ware can afford to run out this rough patch in the road. If it’s something more, the school committee will be receiving a lot of angry phone calls.

Evan Haddad is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at ehaddad@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Ware have all the students gone?”
  1. Interesting, I have not heard about this…

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