NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford public schools embraced school choice on Monday, reversing the district’s long-standing opposition to the idea.

The School Committee voted 5-0, with two members absent, to welcome nonresident students for the 2018-2019 school year, with one caveat: Because June is already here and a new superintendent starts July 1, the new administration may not be able to fully implement school choice until the following school year, School Committee member Joshua Amaral said.

“It might be very well likely that it’s not rolled out until the 2019-2020 school year, but at least we would have the authorization in place so that if a student were to come to us in August and was looking for a way to get into New Bedford schools, the administration could probably figure it out,” he said.

A broader policy may take more time to develop, he said.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, chairman ex officio of the committee, and committee member John Oliveira were absent.

Likewise, outgoing Superintendent Pia Durkin and outgoing Deputy Superintendent Jason DeFalco were absent from what was expected to be their last regular meeting.

New Bedford joins numerous other SouthCoast communities that already participate in school choice as receiving districts, an option created by a 1991 state law. As of last year, that list included Dartmouth, Freetown-Lakeville, Middleboro, Old Rochester Regional, Wareham and Westport. Acushnet and Fairhaven did not accept choice students last year.

Regardless of whether a district accepts nonresident students, its students can choose to leave the district, taking school funding with them. Thus, filling seats — and budgets — is one reason districts choose to enroll outside students.

Several members of the School Committee, including Amaral and vice chairman Bruce Oliveira, said New Bedford’s reluctance to participate came from long-standing concerns that the schools could be burdened financially if more high-needs students enrolled.

“One of the long-held myths that we’ve operated under is that accepting school choice students would be a fiscal disaster,” Amaral said.

Committee member Christopher Cotter said he has asked a lot of questions about school choice in the last two years, but now he understands it better.

“Now that I have a much better understanding of how school choice works, I think it’s a good idea,” he said.

School Committee members worried that the schools would have to hire more staff or pay for costly out-of-district placements for special needs students. But they have learned those costs are generally covered by the sending district, they said.

“I have since been educated on that,” Bruce Oliveira said.

The new policy calls for the administration to determine by May 1 of each year how many seats in each school would be available to nonresident students. Districts typically approve a specific number of seats in each grade each year.

Amaral said that in Fall River, the city schools attract roughly half as many students as they lose to school choice. New Bedford is projected to lose 165 students to school choice next year, he said.