On Hooksett’s school district ballot tomorrow, voters will find Article 3. If approved, it would commit Hooksett to a tuition contract with Pinkerton Academy in Derry through June 30, 2015, with an automatic five-year extension. That would put Hooksett children on the school bus for 5,400 hours. And Hooksett taxpayers will pay more for that privilege.
Late last week the Hooksett School Board finally released its bus routes for Pinkerton Academy. Students would be picked up as early as 6 a.m. to arrive at school by 7. They would spend two hours a day on the bus. That is the equivalent of a commute to Boston every day, five days a week.
While students spend more time in transit, their parents will pay more in tuition. The Hooksett School Board’s Pinkerton presentation for the deliberative session presented the costs through 2018. Hooksett is contractually bound to continue contributing to Manchester’s school capital costs through that year.
But after 2018, those capital costs go away. Based on tuition alone, Manchester’s rates are lower than Pinkerton’s. Hooksett pays nearly $500 more per pupil to Pinkerton than to Manchester by 2018. A new, tuition-only contract with Manchester after 2018 would be cheaper than Pinkerton. And Manchester’s schools are offering new, innovative programs (most notably the STEAM Ahead venture) that are unavailable anywhere else.
The proposed contract would lock Hooksett students into long bus rides at a higher tuition rate for the next 15 years — right as Manchester schools are turning around. It might seem like a good move now, but in a few years, when Manchester high schools are thriving and a senior attending Pinkerton has logged more than 1,000 tedious hours on the bus, it won’t seem like such a great idea.