The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity is a state-funded educational program that buses children from Boston to suburban metropolitan communities. In September of 1966, 220 children from Boston’s communities of Roxbury and the South End were enrolled in seven suburban communities. The school committees of Arlington, Brookline, Braintree, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton and Wellesley elected to be the initial participants in this unique plan. The school systems determined the number of children they could enroll and which grades they would include.
The initiative for this program can be traced to the concern for quality education in the African American community, as demonstrated by the Boston Chapter of the NAACP. In 1963, the NAACP’s Education Committee challenged the Boston School Committee on educational policies, including the racial imbalance of the schools. Subsequently, legislation was filed making imbalance illegal and penalizing school systems by withdrawing State appropriations until suitable plans to alleviate racial imbalance had been approved by the State Department of Education. The Boston Public Schools were among the entities penalized. Suburban communities realized that their children were inadequately educated as well because of racial isolation. This combination of concerns resulted in the establishment of the METCO program.
In 1966, the Newton School Committee voted unanimously to participate in METCO. This vote was officially supported by many groups within the community, including the P.T.A. Council, the Newton Fair Housing Committee, the League of Women Voters, the Roxbury-Newton Freedom School, and Myrtle Baptist Church, as well as many individuals. The program began in this community in September 1966, and involved 50 African American students in grades three through six, attending seven schools in Newton. Newton now sponsors the largest METCO program with all 19 schools involved and an enrollment of 415 students of color in grades K-12. Zervas has been a participating school since 1974.
The children are brought by bus from their homes in various Boston communities and returned by bus at the end of the day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, in addition to the regular bus, there is a late bus at 3:00 p.m. for children to engage in afternoon activities or visit with their METCO cooperating families and friends. A support system of families in the Zervas community provides hospitality for the children and communicates with their parents about school activities. The METCO coordinators and representatives work with school, families of both communities, and the METCO office to help the program operate smoothly. They welcome questions, suggestions, and participation.