CHESTER – In light of three recent requests for students from out of town to attend Chester Academy, superintendent Jim Gaylord presented the Chester school board with the district’s policy on the acceptance into the school of non-resident students to gauge their interest in allowing such students.
The district currently does not allow out-of-town students to tuition into the school, and while Gaylord said he did not expect that policy to change, he did want to raise the issue as a courtesy to the board.
According to Gaylord, families from out of town now and again look to get their kids into Chester Academy because of its good reputation. It’s an attractive place because of student performance and town financial support, among other factors. With surrounding towns with less than stellar schools, some families look to send their kids out of town, he said.
While some school board members said that on first perusal it sounded like a good deal to tuition students, as the district can set its own rates, on further discussion it was agreed that it was a practice the board wanted no part of.
Gaylord said he had seen one district he had worked in previously accept such students and then relatively quickly end the practice.
School board member Mike Romick questioned why the district wouldn’t consider it, considering the potential revenue.
Gaylord, along with principal Leslie Leahy and financial manager Annmarie Scribner, said that while the district in theory can set its tuition rate, there are other factors to consider, including state rules and regulations as well as how state adequacy aid would be factored in. Special services director Jana Ruiz questioned how the cost of busing or special education services would be factored in, as well as potential problems when tuitioned students got to high school, and Pinkerton Academy in Derry, where Chester sends its high school students, did not accept those students.
School board chair Royal Richardson said he suspected the district could quickly get into trouble by choosing which students could attend and which couldn’t. If the school is opened up to one student, it would be opened to all students, and Richardson said the district would need a set of policies to govern student acceptance.
Gaylord said he wanted the board to be aware that he had fielded interest in the matter recently but had denied those requests based on current policy. Gaylord, noting changes in schooling practice, from charter schools to school choice, suspected the issue would become more prominent in the future.
The board talked further of amending the policy, not for allowing out-of-district students to move in, but to clarify how the school handles students whose families move out of town prior to the end of the school year. The accepted policy for families moving out of town near the end of a year is to allow students to finish out their year, but some board members suggested shoring up the specifics.