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Hill voters to decide whether to withdraw from Franklin and Hill School District

The small contingent of Hill residents left yesterday’s state Board of Education meeting with what they wanted: a “yes” vote on their plan to withdraw from the Franklin and Hill School District.

The state’s unanimous decision means Hill residents will vote on leaving Franklin at the March 2015 town meeting. “It’s time that they have the option. They may reject it, but at least they will have their say,” said John Teague, the lawyer representing Hill. If voters approve the withdrawal, Hill students would leave the district beginning in 2015. The two towns will negotiate a way to allow Hill students currently enrolled at Franklin High School to stay there through their graduation, Teague said.

“We are hoping what comes out of this is a much more civil and understandable relationship, even if for the moment they are not going to school in Franklin,” he said.

Franklin School Board Chairwoman Tamara Feener spoke on behalf of the district. “We feel as though we have been a community of sharing for 50 years, and we do not feel as though we want Hill to leave,” she said. “We want the Hill students to stay.”

In its withdrawal report, Hill representatives said they’re eyeing Winnisquam Regional and Newfound Area school districts.

“It’s kind of the chicken and the egg,” Teague said. “They’ve been waiting to see if the plan would be sent back to the voters of Hill.” If voters support leaving Franklin, they will be asked to support a long-term tuition agreement with a new district.

“If they vote it down, then there won’t be any need for a tuition agreement and we will have to be making our peace with Franklin,” Teague said.

Franklin has the cheapest per-pupil cost of the three districts, according to the report. Hill paid $10,329 per middle school student and $10,656 for every high school student in 2011. In the Newfound school district, the costs were $16,560 and $17,239, respectively, according to the withdrawal report. But Hill would ask for a request for proposals to negotiate a tuition agreement, rather than a cost-per-pupil agreement, according to the withdrawal report.

Hill currently has 18 students at Franklin Middle School and 43 students at Franklin High School. There are 1,200 students in preschool through grade 12 in the district, 385 of whom are in the high school, according to the state Department of Education.

According to the report, Hill pays an average of $10,900 per student to the Franklin school district. Based on the current enrollment numbers, the district will pay Franklin approximately $655,000 this year. It will be closer to $500,000 in the first year, if Hill leaves, as Hill continues to make bond payments and pay rental fees.

“Franklin does not suffer a $637,000 deficit in year one, but in fact there is a transition of students who continue to pay tuition,” Teague said.

(Iain Wilson can be reached 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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