Committee mulls Rindge withdrawal from Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District 

  • The School Separation Committee is currently researching the costs of Rindge withdrawing from the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District, as directed by a warrant article which passed in Rindge in March. File photo—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/9/2019 4:24:40 PM

District representatives are still struggling to pin down the potential costs of Jaffrey and Rindge running as separate districts, while the school administration said educational impacts would be vast.

In March, Rindge voters passed a petition warrant article asking for a study on the “the feasibility and suitability of a plan for dissolution” of the Jaffrey-Rindge School District. 

A School Separation Committee to do just that has been meeting for two months now, with an expected deadline of early October to present its findings and a recommendation to the school district and the state’s Department of Education. 

It’s a thorny issue, Roberta Oeser, a member of the committee and a Selectwoman in Rindge said, because the district, when it was formed, never outlined a plan for what it would do if the district dissolved. The districts, not the individual towns, own the school buildings, for example, and there’s no set plan for how to divide the assets if the towns strike out on their own.

According to current state law, districts must provide a plan for dissolution when merging districts, but that law was not in place when the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative was created. 

“Obviously, it’s a bigger research project than it seemed initially. The more you dig into it, the more you need to know,” Oeser said.

Chris Ratcliffe, the committee chairman, said Monday the committee is still gathering data, including what it would cost to tuition students to surrounding districts and other options. 

“We’re not ruling anything out offhand,” Ratcliffe said.

The committee has determined the taxpayers fund $18,342 per student annually to educate Rindge students, and $15,733 for Jaffrey students.

Comparatively, the Keene district charges $11,405 for its general middle school tuition or $27,550 for special education students, and $14,023 for general high school students or $31,003 for special education students.

The committee is still looking into what transportation costs would be to send students out-of-district.

“The big thing is money. Is Rindge paying too much, and can the children get a similar or better education experience for less money elsewhere. And we haven’t figured that out yet,” Oeser said.

In a letter to the committee on Aug. 6, Conant High School Principal Brett Blanchard said the withdrawal of Rindge would have serious impacts on the school’s offerings. 

“While it’s not possible to assess many of the impacts with the withdrawal, the immediate loss to academics, athletics and overall cultural vibrancy would be felt the first year with likely added loss the following two years as staff adjustments continued,” Blanchard wrote. 

Rindge students make up about 45 percent of the Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, Blanchard wrote, and loosing that student population would result in downsizing staff by an estimated 35 percent in the first year, and potentially an additional 5 to 10 percent in the subsequent years.

With reduced staff, the middle school would move to a model that is more like an elementary school model, with two core teachers at every grade level, and rotating classes for physical education, art and music on a part-time basis.

The high school would drop a number of offerings, according to Blanchard, as well as advanced placement courses in history, foreign language, science and math. 

It’s also expected that student population would impact extra-curricular activities, clubs and athletics, some of which would likely be cut.

“Teams in baseball, softball, hockey, tennis and field hockey would struggle to find enough student athletes to compete every year. A full chorus and band would be unlikely with the greater arts taking a large hit due to part-time instructors in those areas; drama performances would be more difficult,” Blanchard wrote.

The committee is scheduled to submit its initial findings and a recommendation about whether or not to dissolve the district to the School Board and to the Department of Education by Oct. 15. If the district is to move forward with dissolution, the committee would submit a dissolution plan by Nov. 1. If the committee is not prepared to make a determination by Oct. 15, it can request an extension which would push out its recommendation report to April 12, and the dissolution plan to Nov. 1, 2020.

If the district did decide to dissolve, the plan would have to be approved by the Department of Education, and residents would have to approve the plan during annual voting.

The School Separation Committee is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 17 in the Jaffrey town offices. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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