by George Koch III
The article has not been credited, so it’s not known whether this was written by a staff writer or from those close to the matter either on the Hampton Falls or Hampton side of the discussion.
It was disappointing to see the Hampton Falls School Board prematurely cut off talks with the Hampton School Board regarding sending their middle-schoolers to Hampton Academy.
The Hampton Falls School Board voted unanimously to reject Hampton’s offer after hearing strong opposition to the idea from parents during a community meeting this week at Winnacunnet High School.
About a dozen Lincoln Akerman School parents came to the meeting with concerns that included Hampton Falls students losing the benefits of attending a smaller school and the notion that only Hampton taxpayers would benefit financially from the deal. They also expressed concern that Hampton Falls would not likely have a voting member on the Hampton School Board.
While their concerns are certainly worth discussing, what was missing from the conversation were the actual details on how a joint endeavor would work. All that was presented was assumptions of what it may cost and what the impact may be on students.
In fact, no real negotiations between the two school boards ever took place.
The only numbers regarding cost presented were from Hampton Falls (SAU 21) Business Administrator Matt Ferreira.
He said tuition, based on Hampton Academy’s per pupil cost, could cost approximately $14,000 per student for Hampton Falls, which would add up to a total of approximately $1.3 million a year for 95 students. Transportation, he said, could cost another $150,000.
Ferreira did point out at the meeting those estimates were not “real” numbers and could be drastically different after negotiations between the two boards. But it was those numbers that Hampton Falls School Board Chairman Mark Lane used as rationale on why it wasn’t a good deal for the town.
“Every angle we look at this, we feel that the burden of the tax is going to be on Hampton Falls to a greater extent,” said Lane.
The question is why even present those numbers to the public if they are not the real ones? Also why not publicly discuss potential cost savings with real numbers, such as reduction of teachers and the benefit of no longer needing to pass and pay off a multimillion-dollar bond to add space to Lincoln Akerman School. The cost of educating the children of Hampton Falls has risen from $9,423 per pupil in 2001 to $20,557 in 2016, according to the Rational Taxpayers of Hampton.
Hampton School Board officials suspect the answer to those questions is that the Hampton Falls School Board never had a strong interest in sending their students to Hampton Academy. Hampton Falls school officials appear to be moving toward putting a bond article before voters next year in a sixth-straight attempt to pass a renovation project to address space constraints at the school.
We still believe a joint middle school could have been a win win for both towns as Hampton just approved a $25.9 million addition/ renovation at Hampton Academy. Hampton would benefit by getting tuition dollars from Hampton Falls that could be used to offset the cost of the renovation project. Hampton Falls would benefit because it would free up space at Lincoln Akerman School for grade K-5 without the expense of a multimillion dollar upgrade to the school.
Perhaps a real conversation between the two school boards will occur in the future if the sixth time is not the charm for Hampton Falls.