The Rochester school board has taken the first step in exploring the feasibility of a regional school designed to attract a diverse student body. Board members voted last week to include the measure in a study of the district's school-choice policy, which already under way.
The school could be much like the one proposed more than a year ago by the educational advocacy group Great Schools for All.
The student bodies of most Rochester public schools are predominantly African American and Hispanic, and most of the students are poor. Numerous studies show that academic achievement is difficult in high-poverty schools. A highly diverse regional school has been talked about for years, but it would be nearly impossible drawing only students from city schools.
"Because there is so much concentrated poverty in the city, the only way to reach that goal is through our suburban neighbors," says board member Willa Powell, who sponsored the board's resolution. "We know that some of our neighboring school superintendents have expressed an interest."
Great Schools for All surveyed a sample of suburban and city parents and found that support for a diverse regional school was strong if it was available to parents on a voluntary basis. Nearly three-quarters favored the idea of a regional school even if it was located outside of their district, if the programs offered were not readily available elsewhere.
New state legislation would be required to create a regional school, and Powell says board members will ask the New York State School Board Association to advocate for the Rochester proposal.