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Dunbarton, Goffstown work to finalize tuition agreement, enrollment numbers

As Dunbarton tries to start high school and middle school students packing for their move to Bow next year, the Goffstown School Board is fighting to keep as many of those kids in its classrooms as possible.

Dunbarton’s new contract with Bow will take effect in the 2014-15 school year, but students rising to grades 10, 11 and 12 at Goffstown High School have the option to stay there through graduation. The school boards from Dunbarton and Goffstown are in the final stage of writing the tuition agreement for students who choose not to switch schools.

Under its new agreement with Bow, Dunbarton will pay that district $9,000 to $13,000 per student. That’s about the same it would have paid to stay in Goffstown, where Superintendent Brian Balke said tuition for Dunbarton students won’t change dramatically.

“I think the amount will be comparable for what they’ve paid historically, so I think the tuition rate will be in the $11,000 range,” Balke said.

Dunbarton School Board Chairman Rene Ouellet said the board hopes to meet with Goffstown next week to finalize the language of their agreement.

“Progress is progress,” Ouellet said. “You never give progress a hard time. On the other hand, we have been itching to get this done. . . . We need those numbers now as we build budgets in all three towns.”

The agreement needs to come together as soon as possible, Ouellet said. As all the schools involved look toward next year’s budgets, he said, they need to have those enrollment numbers in hand.

“The information that we really need is, if both options are available, which school would you want to send your student?” Ouellet said. “It looks like we’re a step closer to having both of those options open.”

Parents of the 97 Dunbarton students currently in ninth, 10th and 11th grade at Goffstown already received a survey asking their school preference for next year. About 20 percent of those surveys have been returned so far, Balke said, and all of them have indicated the student will stay at Goffstown.

Only parents of high school students received the survey, but state law also allows parents to petition the superintendent or the school board of their district to send a child to another school. So a middle school parent could petition Bow to also stay in Goffstown, and Goffstown School Board Chairwoman Dian McCarthy said she hopes to make it very clear that Dunbarton students have that option.

“I want it known for every Dunbarton family that the Goffstown School District does welcome their students,” McCarthy said.

Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden said he and the school board will be willing to consider individual cases of those Dunbarton middle school students who wish to stay in Goffstown.

“Next year, if you’re in seventh, eighth, ninth grade, you should be coming to Bow as a matter of policy,” Cascadden said. “However . . . we’re going to try to look at things on a case-by-case basis.”

Fewer students from Dunbarton simply means less revenue for Goffstown, and Balke acknowledged that will be felt in the district.

“At this point, we’re at the beginning stages of developing our budget, but we are mindful of the tax impact for both the Goffstown and New Boston communities,” the superintendent said.

McCarthy said Goffstown has talked with the Hooksett School Board in hopes of accepting some of its students as that district ends its contract with Manchester in 2014.

“Dunbarton students have been part of our community for a long time,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had long-standing relationships with them. They’re part of our fabric. Our children have played together on the sports field, and they’ve all been working together within the classroom, so certainly the departure of Dunbarton impacts us in that way.

“We’re sad to see them go.”

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

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