Concord approves Deerfield school contract, Deerfield residents yet to vote

  • A Concord High School student walks across Warren Street to get to school as a bus travels in the snow on Friday morning, January 7, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 11/9/2022 7:48:50 PM
Modified: 11/9/2022 7:48:23 PM

A contract between the Concord School District and the town of Deerfield is back on the table this year, as the districts are re-negotiating the agreement that allows Deerfield students to attend Concord High School.

The Concord School Board voted unanimously to approve a 20-year contract at a meeting Monday. Deerfield residents will vote on the contract at their annual meeting in March.

Deerfield students have been attending Concord High School through a tuition agreement since 2004. Deerfield, which has Deerfield Community School for grades pre-K through 8, doesn’t have its own high school. There are 159 Deerfield students at Concord High this year.

Much of the proposed contract is the same as the previous one, according to Concord School Board member Pamela Walsh and school board president Jim Richards who have been involved in negotiations with Deerfield School Board members.

The new contract is longer than the last one – 20 years instead of 10 – which would carry the agreement from 2024 to 2044 with the option to re-negotiate or terminate the agreement at the 12-year mark in 2036.

According to the contract, at least 90% of Deerfield’s public school students would be required to attend Concord High School. Deerfield could send up to 10% of students to other public schools on a tuition agreement, but those students would have to apply for a hardship exemption to attend a school other than Concord High. Private- and home-schooled students aren’t included in that requirement.

Richards said the percentage rule benefits both districts.

“For us, it means that we have stability of knowing that Deerfield students are coming to our school,” Richards said. “For them, it makes Concord High School their school of record, it allows them to enjoy the benefits of CRTC that all Concord students [do], and the finances of that.”

At a Deerfield School Board public hearing in September, some Deerfield parents said they wished they had more public school choices, arguing that Concord High may not be the best fit for every student. Deerfield School Board had also explored the idea of a tuition agreement with Coe-Brown Northwood Academy but found it would be more expensive.

In the proposed contract, Deerfield’s tuition rate – currently a little over $14,000 per student – would remain the same for the first year of the agreement, after which the rate would be calculated using a different formula that is based on expenditure rates from more recent years than was previously done. Deerfield would no longer have to pay a capital fee in addition to tuition. They would remain responsible for transporting students to Concord High.

“I can speak from a personal point of view that we’re really, really lucky to have Deerfield students here,” Richards said. “They add so much to our community and they bring in to our high school community that diversity and expansion of  view points that really  help.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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