Framingham's McAuliffe Charter School picks 126 students

Date Published: 
March 16, 2012
Scott O'Connell
News Type: 

Eny Almeida was sitting on the edge of her metal folding chair last night when the three words she had been waiting to hear for months rang out over the loudspeaker in the McAuliffe Charter School gymnasium: “Maria Julia Almeida.”

“I’m so excited,” the Framingham resident said afterwards as she hugged her daughter, who will be a sixth-grader at the regional middle school in the fall. “I’m more excited than her.”

There weren’t millions of dollars at stake at last night’s lottery, but something even more valuable to parents: their child’s enrollment at the increasingly popular McAuliffe Charter School.

As the school’s executive director, Kristin Harrison, read off names of the 126 new students who will be admitted next year, parents hugged, high-fived — even wept.

“We’re very excited,” said Holliston resident Laurence Spitzer, whose son, Evan, was one of the first names Harrison pulled from a bucket on the stage. “We’ve heard a lot of great things about the school.”

“He’s a real hands-on learner,” said Spitzer’s wife, Toni. “He’s not a sit-in-a-seat, have-information-thrown-at-you (kind of student). We could tell from the orientation that he belonged here.”

Many other parents left disappointed, their son or daughter put on a waiting list that, odds are, won’t ever get them into the school.

Last night’s drama was a far cry from how it used to be at McAuliffe, said Framingham resident Maggie Hanson, whose two sons, now high school students, went there.

“There was a supposed lottery — but they weren’t drawing names or anything,” said Hanson, whose fifth-grader, Julia, was put on a waiting list for next year.

In the last three years, though, enrollment has surged at the expeditionary learning school, climbing from a low of 202 in 2009-10 to a record of 306 next year — the most allowed under McAuliffe’s charter. The number of applications has also increased over that period to a high of 244 this spring, up from about 150 a year ago. After subtracting the 22 spaces that automatically went to students with siblings already at the school, the chances for the dozens of parents at last night’s drawing were less than 50 percent.

“It’s so hard,” Harrison said, who took a moment to try to cheer up Hanson by pointing out that Julia is fourth on the wait list. “We got to know so many of these kids in the fall and winter when they came to visit the school.”