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Bow-Dunbarton school committee laying groundwork for transition

The bells have just started ringing in the hallways of Bow Memorial School and Bow High School for the current school year. But school board officials are already looking ahead to the 2014-15 school year, when Dunbarton will begin shuffling their middle and high school students to Bow.

In March, Dunbarton residents voted to end its current partnership with Goffstown and begin this new agreement with Bow to form a reorganized, two-district SAU 67. Last night, members of the Bow and Dunbarton school boards began to slog through the many details of that transition at the second meeting of the Bow-Dunbarton Transition Committee.

While the committee has yet to hammer out many concrete details of this transition – such as enrollment numbers and bus routes – Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden said this meeting laid the groundwork for future collaboration.

“I think the big thing is really just cooperation and problem solving,” Cascadden said after the meeting.

Bow and Dunbarton officials may be playing nicely together, but several committee members expressed irritation with the Goffstown School Board as questions about the looming budget process arose. The Goffstown officials have yet to set tuition for the 2014-15 year for Dunbarton students who wish to stay in the district through graduation, which could affect the number of students who decide to make the switch.

High school students in grades 10 to 11 who currently attend Goffstown High School will have the option of staying there through their senior year. State law also allows parents to petition a district for permission to send their child or children to a particular school in certain extreme situations.

“We’re not anticipating a tremendous number of 12th-graders wanting to come here,” Duane Ford, business administrator for Bow, said.

Committee Chairman Jarrett Duncan of Dunbarton said his board has tried to set up meetings with the Goffstown board to discuss their tuition and how many students may choose to remain in the district.

The Goffstown school board has “not responded to our requests to meet, and it is frustrating,” Duncan said.

Duncan suggested members of the Dunbarton board attend the Goffstown board meeting Monday to prompt more information on their tuition agreement. The board also discussed means to survey Dunbarton students on their school of choice within the next month.

Cascadden said he hopes to see estimates of enrollment numbers by October so the district can begin to move more confidently on its budget planning for the upcoming school year. Ford will be the primary person responsible for building budget documents for the combined district.

The physical transition of employee files and historical records from SAU 19 in Goffstown to SAU 67 in Bow will be tackled in coming months. So will the electronic transition from one district to another, as Dunbarton students and officials will now operate on Bow’s interface, called Infinite Campus.

While Bow officials suggested adding a database manager-level position for tech support in the reorganized district, Dunbarton officials seemed reluctant to add the cost of another employee to the budget.

“In the budget process, you look visually at the organization of your school, and you try to say, where can we get synergies? Where are the needs? Where can we share resources?” Cascadden said.

And bringing students from Dunbarton to Bow by bus will need to be mapped out in a new bus contract and new routes.

But throughout these decisions, Cascadden said he hopes to remain transparent to the voters who approved the agreement in the first place.

“I think the big challenge is to communicate the decisions we’re making to our larger communities,” Cascadden said.

The committee will meet next in October.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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