As vote on Concord tuition agreement nears, Deerfield parents to host school choice discussion

By EILEEN O’GRADY

Monitor staff

Published: 02-06-2023 5:03 PM

Deerfield parents who want to expand school choice options in their town are holding a panel discussion with state education officials Tuesday night as the town prepares to vote on a contract with Concord High School in March.

It’s a conversation that’s been ongoing in the town of Deerfield, which maintains the Deerfield Community School for grades pre K-8, but does not have its own high school. For the past 19 years, Deerfield has maintained a tuition agreement to send students to Concord High School. Now, faced with the choice of whether to renew the contract with Concord for another 20 years, some parents are saying they want more options.

“We’ve always had to outsource and we used to have more options for our children so that they were placed in the best high school for their learning style as well as the location,” said Deerfield parent Bobby-Ann Dostie. “I 100% still want to have Concord as an option. A lot of families that have kids that have graduated from there say it’s a great option, but I also want to give their families at least one or two more for their children.”

Dostie, the mother of a ninth-grader and a fifth-grader, launched the citizens’ group “Deerfield Deserves High School Choice” in 2022 as the Deerfield School Board prepared its tuition agreement with Concord High. The Deerfield School Board had also explored the idea of a tuition agreement with Coe-Brown Northwood Academy but found Concord would be a less expensive option.

The new contract would carry the until 2044 with the option to re-visit the agreement at the 12-year mark in 2036. The terms would require at least 90% of Deerfield’s public school students to attend Concord High School, a percentage that does not include private- and home-schooled students. Deerfield could send up to 10% of its public school students to other districts on a tuition agreement, but those students would have to apply for a hardship exemption to switch districts. Deerfield is currently responsible for transporting students the approximately 20-mile distance to Concord High, and would continue to do so under the new contract.

There are 159 Deerfield students at Concord High this year. The Concord School Board already voted to enter the tuition agreement at a meeting Nov. 7.

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Tuesday’s event, which is hosted by Deerfield Deserves High School Choice members, will be in Q&A-style, where residents can discuss school choice options under New Hampshire law. The panelists will be Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, NH Board of Education member Richard Sala and Republican State Rep. Glenn Cordelli.

“I’m really hoping that the people that have been against having another option will come and ask those questions,” Dostie said. “I’m really hoping for a big turnout and have people on both sides of the fence who really just want to learn more about it.”

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