As I waited at the Wellesley Square commuter rail platform one day last month, I noted to a fellow passenger that the crowds seemed smaller that morning. “Maybe it’s because of private school vacations,” he said, followed by: “By the way, do you know how many Wellesley kids go to private school?”
While people presume Mr. Swellesley has an encyclopedic knowledge of all Wellesley-related facts and figures, I had to admit I didn’t have a clue about K-12 private school attendance. He guessed 10%. I told him I’d look into it.
My first stop was the School Committee, followed shortly by the State. Both were helpful.
Wellesley Public Schools Superintendent David Lussier handled my inquiry to the School Committee and got right back to me:
“Our overall numbers have been very consistent for the past five years with approximately 20 percent of Wellesley students attending private schools. Grade levels have also been consistent. At the elementary level, we see a smaller percent of private school attendance in the range of 13-16 percent. From grades 6-12, that range is between 20-26 percent.”
While the town would love to have all students who live here attend its system, school officials are well aware that some families have other plans and some students require different learning environments. Wellesley Middle School has a system down for smoothing the process for those students who wish to attend private school. As for students entering or re-entering the Wellesley Public School system, WPS says it handles those situations with the same sensitivity it would for any incoming student.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education helped to put those Wellesley numbers into perspective by pointing me to its Massachusetts statewide report on private school attendance (all the way back to the mid-1980s). Overall, 8.3% of Massachusetts students attended private school in 2017-18.
The state had Wellesley with 1,210 students at in-state private and parochial schools (and 5 more at out-of-state schools) for the 2017-18 school year (20.5% overall). That ranks 9th among communities statewide. Ten years ago Wellesley ranked #16 with 1,076 kids at private schools (24% overall). If you go way back to 1984-85, the furthest back that the state numbers go, about 23% of Wellesley kids went to private schools, and out-of-state schools was a bigger thing.
To round things out, I reached out to Wellesley’s private schools, to get a sense of what chunk of their students are from Wellesley. Tenacre, for one, counts 46% of its student body being from Wellesley.
So, I’m now able to answer the basic questions about Wellesley’s public school numbers. Are there other things you’re wondering about related to this or would like to add? Educate me.
Note: I always forget that I actually went to private school myself. I attended a parochial school from grades 1-6, surviving the likes of Sister Thomas Catherine, then integrating into the public school system through 12th grade. Yes, I skipped kindergarten, and it still shows in my coloring abilities.