EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 14, 2011

81 kicked out of Methuen schools over residency

METHUEN — A district-wide effort to make students to prove residency resulted 81 students removed from city schools.

Superintendent Judith Scannell said officials spent seven months sending letters, making phone calls and verifying paperwork to prove that Methuen students are Methuen residents.

"It's a big district, and this needed to be done," Scannell said. "We had to do this."

School Committee member Evan Chaisson helped draft the district's new residency policy, passed by the school committee last year. He said the residency effort is "looking to be a huge success," saying that removing non-Methuen students reduces class sizes and ensures Methuen tax dollars are being spent on residents.

"It helps on all aspects of the school," Chaisson said.

Scannell pointed out that some of the students removed from the district have behavioral issues. The superintendent did say that she empathizes with the students being removed.

"This is going to be a break in their education, and I want the best for all of them. I want them to have a good education," Scannell said. "This hurts the child more than I think people realize."

School committees can choose to review their rolls and remove students at their discretion. Methuen, which has 7,000 students, is not a school-choice district, meaning Methuen does not allow out-of-district students to enroll.

"This is something where a local school committee establishes its policy," said JC Considine, spokesperson for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Considine said the state does not provide any guidelines or guidance related to reviewing student addresses.

For months, the superintendent updated the school committee as more non-Methuen residents were removed. By Feb. 4, the district had removed 55 students.

Efforts to complete the residency verification stepped up in the past month as administrators told parents that their students would be withdrawn from schools if they did not comply with residency requirements by Feb. 28.

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