METCO Faces New Challenges Amid Mass. School Reopening Debate

For 33 districts working with the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, formed in the 1960s to help desegregate schools in the Boston area, questions about program funding are making the coronavirus pandemic even more difficult to navigate

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The battle over desegregating Boston-area schools is well-known.

Back in the 1960s, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, or METCO, was created to help deal with the problem. Today, 33 districts around Boston work with METCO to bring city kids to suburban schools. In the age of COVID-19, that job is even tougher.

"Every district we work with is really examining the challenges of what are the needs of every family, and when there's a technology need, when there's a space need, when there's socio-emotional-support needs, the districts are finding ways to serve those families, whether they live in the district or whether they live in Boston," said Colin Stokes of the organization.

He says about half of the METCO districts are looking at starting remote and moving to a hybrid model while the other half are planning to go hybrid right from the start. But what they don't know at this point is whether the money will be there.

Stokes says the answer to that question is crucial.

"I think the one thing that we really — would make everybody feel more confident is clarity from the state about what our funding might look like," he said. "As you know, funding of all kinds of programs is still up in the air."

That answer needs to come from the state, and Stokes encourages people to help make the answer "yes."

"The more districts can be confident that there will be a METCO grant, and that all of our programs will be supported by the state, and the more that our partners in the districts and the residents who live there let our legislators know how much METCO means to us, the more secure we'll be able to be in our planning," Stokes said.

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