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Dunbarton parents eye Bow as high school choice after 2014

DUNBARTON - When Dunbarton families were asked in the early years of the Regional Enrollment Agreement with Bow whether they wanted their child to enroll early in Bow schools or remain enrolled in Goffstown schools beyond 2014, many supported the Goffstown option.

But five years after the start of the new AREA agreement, the preference among Dunbarton students is toward enrolling in Bow schools, according to the survey results.

In the part of the survey that addressed eighth graders - the class of 2017 - 13 families responded while 11 did not. Eleven students in the class said they would prefer to stay at Goffstown High. Two students chose the early enrollment option at Bow High School.

For the class of 2018, 26 student families were asked to fill out the survey, but only eight responded. Out of those who responded, five prefer to remain at Goffstown High beyond 2014 while three chose to enroll at Bow High.

In the Class of 2019, 18 families responded while 18 did not. For the Class of 2019 there were two surveys asking their middle school and high school preferences. One option would allow students entering seventh grade this September, who would normally be required to attend Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown for seventh grade and then Bow Memorial School for eighth grade, to have the option of attending either BMS or MVMS for both grades 7 and 8.

An additional high school option being considered is to allow students entering ninth grade in the second year of the Bow AREA agreement - 2015 to 2016 - to have the option of attending Goffstown High School for their entire high school career. In response to that option, 10 chose Bow High while five chose to remain at Goffstown High. Thirteen families did not respond to the survey question.

In March, Dunbarton residents voted to enter into a new AREA agreement with Bow beginning in 2014, ending the town's 40-year-old agreement with Goffstown.

Currently, Goffstown also has an agreement with New Boston, which it is in the process of renewing.

At a meeting of the Dunbarton School Board last month, several Dunbarton parents asked the town's school board members to approach Goffstown to ask whether the school choice option could be implemented. The school choice option is intended to reduce disruption to Dunbarton students caused by the transition to the new AREA agreement with Bow.

At a meeting last week between Dunbarton and Goffstown school board members, at least one member of the Goffstown School Board said he was not convinced the survey results demonstrate "hardship" for Dunbarton - one thing that the community must show in order to avoid the requirement of putting changes in the terms of the AREA agreement up for a vote in all three towns.

"This would be muddying the waters a lot," said Goffstown School Board member Keith Allard. "The more muddy we make it, the harder it is to prove a hardship." He cited the low participation rates in the survey as evidence that Dunbarton residents don't feel the urgency to get this school choice proposal approved.

When the representatives from Dunbarton and Goffstown met last week to talk about the feasibility of implementing the so-called school choice option, they scheduled another meeting for May 9 to discuss the plan with their counterparts from New Boston.

Prior to that, however, attorneys for both school boards will meet to determine if the proposals can be implemented, and whether the plan is in the best interests of the towns they represent.

Dunbarton officials have cited the benefit of Goffstown receiving tuition revenue from Dunbarton after 2014 as one reason why Goffstown should be in favor of the plan that Dunbarton has proposed. Officials have estimated that without the school choice option for Dunbarton students, the Goffstown School District stands to lose approximately $2 million annually in revenue it used to get from Dunbarton.

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