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Bow welcomes Dunbarton to school system

BOW - By a vote of 301–10, voters approved an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Dunbarton at the annual School District Meeting on Friday, March 8.

Under the agreement, Dunbarton middle and high school students would attend Bow schools beginning in the fall of 2014, but Dunbarton voters must also approve the agreement at their School District Meeting on Saturday, March 16, in order for it to move forward.

Dunbarton?s current agreement with Goffstown and New Boston expires June 30, 2014, and voters must choose between exclusive agreements with either Goffstown or Bow.

The addition of Dunbarton students would mean an increase in revenue for Bow of about $2 million, which would also mean an equal loss in revenue for Goffstown.

Estimated tuition payments for Dunbarton students are expected to be $9,137 at Bow Memorial School and $12,291 at Bow High School, but are expected to change by the 2014-15 school year.

In response to a question from the floor about a possible downside to the agreement, Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden said one concern is how the students from the two towns will mesh.

?Bow is a very special place. Right now, we?re one town,? he said, adding that he has heard of a ?This is our town? mentality, and some parents have expressed concern about space on sports teams if there is an influx of students.

Dunbarton School Board member Jeff Trexler said he was pleased by Bow?s strong support.
?I?m thrilled that the voters overwhelmingly thought that Dunbarton was a good fit for Bow,? he said.

The board worked hard to put forth information to its voters that was fair and balanced, Trexler said, and voters will have much to consider.

?I think people are passionate about the issue,? he said, ?but I think they will be able to talk about it without their passion getting in the way of their good manners.?

Trexler said he could not predict how residents will vote.

?I think it could go either way, I think it will depend on who shows up,? he said.

Dunbarton operates under the traditional Town Meeting form of government, where warrant articles are discussed and voted on at the same meeting.

Goffstown School Board Chairman Philip Pancoast said he is not sure Dunbarton voters have an accurate picture of the numbers.

?In fairness to Dunbarton, there is a gargantuan amount of information that one might consider,? he said. ?But it feels as though some of the mathematical reality of some of the changes is left out.?

According to Pancoast, Bow?s budget has doubled in the past 10 years, while Goffstown?s has risen by about 67 percent, and that Dunbarton students who represent 10 percent of Goffstown?s student population will become 25 percent of Bow?s student population.

?If you?re consuming 25 percent of doubling, that?s going to be far greater than if you consume 10 percent of two thirds,? he said.

The numbers also work in Goffstown?s favor when it comes to spreading out the cost of new programs.

?If Goffstown wants to expand course offerings, we?re spreading the cost over a much greater number of people,? he said.

Trexler said Dunbarton voters were presented with figures that illustrated how much tuition would be paid to Bow if there is an agreement this year, and calculated a tuition figure based on proposed budgets for next year, which Pancoast said is too narrow a window.

?The costs are going to be comparable,? Trexler said, adding that budgets will vary from year to year. ?We can?t predict what will happen for future years.?

Pancoast said the issue has been somewhat emotionalized, but it boils down to some basic questions.

?You want to ask: Are the programs good, is the education good, is there value for the money you?re spending?? he said, adding that he could comfortably answer yes to all of those questions on behalf of Goffstown.

Pancoast said he still thinks Dunbarton and Goffstown are more compatible.

?Without reservation, I believe that the Goffstown/Dunbarton fit is better than the Bow/Dunbarton fit,? he said. ?At the end of the day, the decision has to be what is best for your students and your community. I believe their best choice is to continue their agreement with Goffstown.?

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