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With new offerings, Maynard’s schools show net gains

For the first time in seven years, more students are coming into Maynard’s school system through school choice than are leaving town for other districts.

Maynard officials attribute the reversal to the construction of a new high school and the district’s revamping of its educational programs, and say the reversal is a financial boon to the school system.

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“It’s wonderful,” said Amy Gay, the School Committee’s chairwoman. “It’s very exciting.”

Thirty-five students from other communities opted into Maynard schools this academic year, up from about 19 last year and roughly 16 in the 2010-11 school year. There are 30 students from Maynard who opted for another district this year, down from around 34 last year and about 46 the year before.

Maynard has also seen a 15 percent reduction in the number of local students choosing to attend Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School since last year.

Because a student’s hometown has to pay an assessment to the outside district where he or she enrolls under the school choice program, the changes in the numbers have meant a $283,000 swing in Maynard’s favor.

“There was a lot of good work that was done before, but now people are seeing that we’re offering a superior education,” said Robert Gerardi, the superintendent of Maynard’s school district.

In the past couple of years, Maynard administrators have kicked off a number of new initiatives — including a Spanish immersion program for kindergartners, college partnerships for high school students, and adding iPads to the curriculum — aimed in part at stemming the outpouring of students from the district.

Gerardi said the Spanish immersion program, currently limited to a single kindergarten classroom, had a waiting list. Two families from out of town wanted to put their children into the program, but preference was given to Maynard children, Gerardi said.

Maynard High principal Chuck Caragianes said he has talked with students who have returned to Maynard from other districts, and they said they were attracted to the academic rigor of the school’s offerings. He cited the iPad program, which has all freshmen and sophomores using one of the Apple tablet computers this academic year, and will be extended to all students at the high school next year, as boosting the perception of the school.

“From a technology point of view, people are feeling that Maynard High has not only caught up, but has moved toward the head of the pack,” Caragianes said.

Katie Rocheleau, 15, transferred to Maynard High this year after completing her freshman year at Assabet Valley Tech. She said she made the move because she wanted to be able to devote more time to academic study without also having to focus on vocational training.

Rocheleau said that some of her friends from other towns who opted into Maynard High did so because of its size.

“I think it’s because it’s a small school,” Rocheleau said. “Everyone knows each other, and it makes it easier to make friends than at a big school where there’s cliques, and it’s harder to get along with everyone.”

Caragianes also said he’s noticed an uptick in school pride. The crowds at football games, which he announces over the loudspeaker, have roughly doubled, he said. He added that disciplinary referrals at the high school were at “historically low” levels.

Adding to the buzz around the district is Maynard’s new high school, which will open in September for students in grades 8 through 12. During last year’s orientation day for middle-schoolers stepping up to high school, students seemed excited when they saw architectural renderings of the building, said Caragianes.

“You could see the students’ eyes really lighting up,” he said.

Gerardi said he expects the new building to have an even bigger impact on student retention once it’s open. The fact that eighth-graders will attend school there may make them more reluctant to transfer out of the district for their freshman year, he said.

“Students aren’t going to want to switch to another high school after they’ve been in a brand-new building,’’ Gerardi said. “It truly will be a state-of-the-art building. It’s going to be beautiful.”

Calvin Hennick can be reached at calvinhennick@yahoo.com.
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