NASHUA – The Board of Education is exploring an option to rent the former Brentwood School in Merrimack and continue the school’s special needs program for high school students.
The Southeastern Regional Education Service Center, SERESC, which formerly operated the Brentwood school, announced several weeks ago that the school would be closing on July 1. According to SERESC Executive Director Richard LaSalle, Brentwood, which provided an alternative program for teens with emotional and educational challenges, was no longer financially viable.
“School enrollment had been dropping for a number of years,” said LaSalle. “We had gone from around 50 students to under 20.”
LaSalle said that surrounding school districts that formerly sent students to Brentwood have been opting to provide in-district services to those teens. With declining tuition payments from those districts, SERESC was unable to keep up with the cost of maintaining the school.
Nashua, however, had up to 10 students enrolled at Brentwood this year, and the decision to close the school left them, and school administrators, without many choices.
“We didn’t expect it,” said Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad. “Closing on such short notice left us with two concerns.”
Conrad said it wasn’t clear if there even were other programs for the students, and administrators began looking for schools in Massachusetts. But with that search came additional worries about higher tuition and increased transportation costs.
“We began asking, can we assume operation of the school and meet the needs of students that way,” said Conrad.
Conrad proposed that idea to the Board of Education this week, and members seemed inclined to find a way to make it work.
“Revenue-wise, we consider it a break even proposal,” said Conrad. Nashua paid annual tuition of $40,000 per pupil to attend Brentwood.
“We would expect to pay that or more with other placements,” he said.
During the past school year, 16 students were enrolled at Brentwood, and Conrad expects up to 12 Nashua students to attend in September if the school’s doors remain open. The remaining openings would still be available to students from other communities.
The BOE’s Finance and Operations Committee will review the proposal and make its recommendation to the full board at its next meeting.
“It was sad to have to close the school,” said LaSalle. “But the degree to which Nashua has come in to try to continue to provide those services to these children has been positive.”