Hooksett students could attend high school in Bow, Londonderry

Last modified: 12/12/2013 10:26:35 AM
As the Hooksett School District severs one contract with Manchester, its school board has formalized agreements to enroll some of its high school students in schools closer to Concord next year.

The Hooksett board is still negotiating a sending contract that would establish Pinkerton Academy in Derry as the anchor for its roughly 650 high school students next year. But it recently approved memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, that allow Bow and Londonderry to enroll some of its high schoolers, and the Pembroke school board is likely to sign a similar MOU that would accept Hooksett students at Pembroke Academy.

According to the MOUs, Bow could accept as many as 10 students per grade level from Hooksett next year, and Londonderry as many as 40 per grade level.

The end of this school year will mark the early end of Hooksett’s 20-year sending contract with Manchester schools, which was supposed to last until 2023. After a tense legal battle over breach of contract allegations on both sides, the two districts reached a settlement in July to dissolve that agreement.

While families could petition to send their students to one of those high schools in the past, Hooksett School Board Chairwoman Trisha Korkosz said these agreements ease the process of choosing a high school for rising ninth-graders and their families.

“They help those families who feel that (a certain school) is the best option for their child,” Korkosz said.

The five-year MOUs are also a sign of future stability for families who have been following the district’s various ongoing negotiations.

“We have just adopted a policy on high school placement, and that reassures the community that we’re moving in that direction,” Korkosz said.

The agreements will both last for five years, and the districts can re-evaluate the number of open spots for Hooksett students each year. If more students are interested in attending than a school can accept, Hooksett will be responsible for determining which students can fill the open spots.

In Londonderry, Hooksett students will pay $10,290 in tuition during the next school year. Bow won’t set a tuition rate until the end of this month.

Hooksett will cover the cost of tuition at any satellite school up to its base high school rate – $10,200 for next year. Then parents will need to cover the rest of the cost of tuition at the school of their choice.

Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden said the MOU is a more formal policy for the district to take Hooksett students, even though it has been accepting students who petitioned to specifically attend Bow for about four years.

Ten students from Hooksett currently attend Bow High School.

Cascadden said he will have a better sense of the long-term openings for Hooksett students at Bow High School as the district begins to also accept middle and high school students from Dunbarton next year. Under the MOU, he said the district can re-evaluate how many spots are available to Hooksett each year.

“Our best estimate is it’s going to be 10 a year, looking forward in our crystal ball,” Cascadden said. “We’re not totally confident in that crystal ball because there are so many new factors.”

Even with new MOUs in place, Hooksett students can still choose to go to high school in Manchester. Dr. Debra Livingston, superintendent of the Manchester School District, estimated enrollment for Hooksett students rising to 10th, 11th and 12th grades next year would remain on par with the number of students currently in those classes – a little more than 300 students.

The number of incoming ninth-graders from Hooksett has not yet been determined. The district needs to report how many of its roughly 168 eighth-graders will start high school in Manchester by the end of March.

“We are still a school where they could send their eighth-graders,” Livingston said. “We welcome them to come.”

As of October, Hooksett reported 426 of its roughly 618 high school students attend one of the three public high schools in Manchester.

If a significant chunk of the rising ninth-graders move to another district, that would “certainly” have an effect on the district budget, Livingston said. But without the final number of incoming ninth-grade students, the Manchester superintendent said she couldn’t speculate on how serious that effect would be.

Under the terms of their settlement agreement, Hooksett was required to make a $100,000 payment to Manchester this school year; another $100,000 payment is required during the next school year.

Tuition for Hooksett students in Manchester schools this year is approximately $8,500, but that will go up next year to $10,200 and will continue to rise in the years to follow.

And as the formal contract between Hooksett and Manchester ends, Livingston said she hopes the repercussions of a long legal battle have not been felt at the student level.

“We worked very hard this year to reduce our class sizes, to make sure all the materials were available in the classroom, because we’ve always considered Hooksett students our children, our students,” she said. “We’re just as concerned about their education day to day . . . as any other student in our district.”

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



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