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New Boston to stay with SAU 19 after exploring options

GOFFSTOWN - New Boston will remain in an AREA agreement with Goffstown after all despite exploring other options with other school districts.

An Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement has been finalized between Goffstown, New Boston and Dunbarton.

The New Boston School Board began to explore other education options last year at the direction of voters, but according to board member Wendy Lambert, the number of students in New Boston prohibited them from taking the process further.

'We reached out to a few other districts and we found that they just didn't have room,' she said. 'It basically stopped - there just wasn't enough interest.'

Lambert said New Boston has had a solid relationship with Goffstown for many years.

'We've had an agreement since 1971,' she said, 'but even before that, we were with Goffstown, and it's been a good relationship for all of us.'

According to SAU 19 Superintendent Stacy Buckley, the document detailing the agreement between Goffstown, New Boston and Dunbarton will be released once it has been signed by representatives of all three school boards.

It will then be forwarded to the state Board of Education for review at its January meeting, Buckley said.

'I think at the end of the day, it was a good agreement for all three districts,' she said. 'Everyone had different thoughts, but I think everyone got what they needed out of it.'

Buckley said the new agreement includes clarifying language throughout the document, so that anyone looking at it would have a clear understanding of its details.

'The current agreement is a little vague,' she said.

Currently, New Boston and Dunbarton send students to Goffstown for middle and high school, and that agreement expires in 2014.

According to December enrollment figures for the district, a total of 1,177 students are enrolled at Goffstown High School, and 864 attend Mountain View Middle School.

Of the total, New Boston sends about 393 students, and Dunbarton sends about 176.

Dunbarton voters in March will choose between the re-negotiated agreement with Goffstown and a proposed agreement with Bow, which was finalized earlier this month.

Dunbarton School Board member Jeff Trexler said the agreement with Bow is 'definitely not a done deal. The voters have the final say.'

Trexler said the finalizing of the two agreements is just one step in a multi-step process.

Once each plan is approved by the state, warrant articles can be created for Goffstown, New Boston, Dunbarton and Bow, with the last step being voter approval.

Goffstown and New Boston operate under SB 2, or ballot voting, while Dunbarton and Bow hold traditional school district meetings. Trexler stressed the importance of residents attending their Annual School District Meetings.

'The only way they can vote on the plan is to be at the School District Meeting,' he said. 'It won't be on the ballot.'

Should Dunbarton voters choose to partner with Bow, Goffstown could lose about $2 million in annual tuition revenue, but SAU 19 Business Manager Ray Labore has said it is too early to tell what the tax impact would be if Dunbarton withdraws from the SAU.

Buckley said the district has also met with representatives from Hooksett, who are considering a withdrawal from Manchester.

'We have had preliminary conversations with Hooksett, but they're very preliminary conversations,' Buckley said.

Both Goffstown and Hooksett would need to vote to discontinue relationships with their respective districts for any shifting of students to occur.

'There are two pieces of the puzzle,' Buckley said.

She said Goffstown could not accept the entire high school population of Hooksett, which is about 550 students.

'We would take a portion of their students,' she said.

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