My Turn: Is it time the MVSD towns just broke up with each other?

For the Monitor
Published: 9/26/2021 8:15:05 AM

As I watch the events at board meetings in Merrimack Valley School District unfold, I can’t help but wonder if the district should just break up with each other. Yes, it would be messy, and it might be worth it. After all, fifty years is a long time to be in a relationship.

For years, in each town there have been rumblings from different factions around the district that would like to break free. A large group of Loudon parents took their learners out of the school system for various reasons over the last ten years.

When I lived in Webster, parents talked about Hopkinton, often ranked #1 in the state, as a better option for their kids. Many Concord taxpayers live with a different tax rate and that drives a wedge in our city, especially as the idea of a lawsuit is floated by some community members over the Exit 17 TIF District.

The pandemic certainly has divided us and although some might say the parents acting unruly at board meetings is just a small contingency, they are feeling emboldened to be the voice for a lot of folks who are not happy with the district’s pandemic response.

In the last fifty years the demographics of our towns have changed quite a bit. The people who initially formed this relationship are mostly dead and the reasons for joining the towns, which was not without controversy at the time, no longer fully apply.

Other circumstances have also changed. Penacook is no longer a bustling village, Loudon is a now a bedroom community, and we are more diverse than ever. None of these are bad things, but they are realities.

I know for some this provocation will stir up big feelings, as when any long-term relationship ends, and I think in the end the pros will outweigh the cons. Here are four things we could see if MVSD towns just broke up with each other —

Penacook would fully benefit from being part of Concord. No longer would we have two different tax rates in the same city.

Each town, Boscawen, Loudon, Webster and Salisbury, could determine their own fate locally without being tied down by a relationship they didn’t choose. Salisbury and Webster could have control over their small schools. Towns could open up tuition agreements with Belmont, Franklin, Kearsarge, Hopkinton, Concord, Pittsfield and Pembroke allowing for public school choice, which would strengthen our surrounding public high schools.

Learners would have access to higher quality programming. As a MVSD alum, it puzzled me how in the same city we had such limited academic opportunities. In Penacook, we literally pay more money for less. Additionally, most MVSD residents spend big money in Concord, which only helps Concord learners get more.

Two high schools and two middle schools would allow for some public school choice and magnet programs that would allow for more diverse programming. There are learners at Concord who would benefit from attending a smaller school like MVHS and smaller programs at each school could combine to make one strong program. Similarly, we have learners attending MV who would benefit from a bigger campus.

Like any divorce, the cons are the time and initial investment to disband and re-organize, the loss in identity some people might feel and perhaps some anxieties about living in a new way. And we are living in a new way, which none of us chose.

I think this is the time we have a serious conversation about the future of our relationship. Is it even worth fighting for, or is one city, one district a better future for the Capital area?

(Carisa Corrow lives in Penacook.)

My Turns are opinion-based essays submitted by Monitor readers and members of the community. The views expressed in My Turns are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Concord Monitor and its staff.

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