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Parents fear lack of access in school assign plans

Capital and facilities management chief Carleton Jones addressed parents at Tuesday night’s meeting.

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

Capital and facilities management chief Carleton Jones addressed parents at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Some current and future Boston public school parents on Tuesday expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the way children are assigned to schools, fearing the different options could lead to increased segregation and will not broaden access to high-quality schools.

About 60 parents attended an informational meeting held at the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury to discuss the five proposals that are under consideration.

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Some parents who spoke to a reporter after the presentation, including Lauren Morse, 33, of Roslindale, referenced a recent analysis by a Harvard University professor suggesting that the proposals would make it harder for students in the poorest neighborhoods to get into the city’s best schools.

“I’m really concerned about that,” Morse said, adding that while she understands the appeal of attending school to closer to home, she believes there is a danger that the assignment process could become less equitable.

Of the five School Department proposals unveiled last month, the most dramatic option would eliminate geographic attendance boundaries and cross-city busing by allowing students to attend the school closest to their home with available seats.

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Another option would carve up the city into 23 attendance regions, giving most parents a choice of two, three, or four schools, while subdividing almost ­every neighborhood, including East Boston and West Roxbury.

Eric Esteves, 33, of Roxbury, whose son attends the Mason Elementary School in the neighborhood, said the 23-zone plan could “really pigeonhole neighborhoods” and limit choice, though he withheld judgment on the other options because he said he still had to research them.

Of the five School Department plans, the most dramatic would eliminate geographic attendance and allow students to attend the school closest to home.

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“The main concern is quality,” Esteves said.

The three other proposals would divide the city into six, nine, or 11 zones, respectively.

During the presentation, Carleton Jones, the School Department’s executive director for capital and facilities management, said that while saving money on student transportation is one of the issues at play, it is not “a driving force.”

He referenced a handout that was given to parents outlining several objectives that school officials are aiming to meet in implementing a new system, including equitable access to quality education, closer proximity to home, diversity, and safety.

Bridget Colvin, 36, of Roxbury, said that under the proposals, her 5-year-old son would be zoned out of the Mendell Elementary School, which he currently attends.

She also said she believes school officials are chiefly concerned about cost savings, despite their assertions to the contrary.

“It looks to me that that’s their highest priority,” she said.

An advisory committee appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, which is vetting the proposals and could tweak them, is expected to make a final recommendation in November.

Their recommendation will then be presented to the School Committee for approval.

James Vaznis of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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