School Committee continues School Choice program

Jan 29, 2019

An additional 30 out-of-district students will be able to attend Dartmouth High School next year, after the School Committee voted to continue the district’s School Choice program for another year.

The 4-1 vote by the School Committee on Jan. 28 will bring the total number of slots at Dartmouth High School open to non-Dartmouth students to 121. The program is limited to only the ninth through twelfth grade at Dartmouth High School.

The program allows students from other cities and towns to attend school in Dartmouth, with the student’s home district paying Dartmouth Public Schools a $5,000 tuition payment each year.  

It was launched in 2016 at Dartmouth High, initially limited in scope to 30 students. The School Committee has voted to up the number of students each year since then.

The program has generated $925,961 in revenue for the district since its inception. Unlike other funding sources, the money goes directly to the School Department and does not require Town Meeting approval to spend.

The School Committee must approve continuing the program each year. Before taking a vote at the School Committee’s Jan. 28 meeting, Superintendent Bonny Gifford highlighted some of the projects funded with School Choice revenue. 

The one-to-one computing initiative at the high and middle schools, which launched in October, was funded through $187,706.70 in School Choice funds. While largely paid for by a $500,000 state grant, the high school’s new Innovation Lab, which opened earlier in the year, was also funded through $76,143.13 in School Choice funds.

School Committee members spoke highly of the program, noting that it is providing a valuable funding source for projects which could have gone unfunded.

“It was a difficult decision, but I think it’s held up well, and the town is seeing the benefits of it,” said School Committee member Shannon Jenkins. “We wouldn’t have been able to fund one-to-one computing without School Choice.”

“The proof in what we’ve been able to do with the funding really speaks for itself,” said member Kathleen Amaral.

School Committee Chairman John Nunes, who has voted against continuing School Choice since its inception in the district, spoke positively about the work done with the revenue School Choice brings to the district.

“I’ve never voted for it, it’s just a fundamental thing,” Nunes said. “The revenue is great, I love the revenue and what we’ve done with it, but I still can’t do with it.”

With class sizes a concern, member Chris Oliver asked if administrators were sure the high school can handle the added slots without impacting class sizes.

“My opinion is yes,” Gifford said. “We have been doing it for three years and it is spread out through the grades.”

School Choice applications will likely be rolled out in February on the district’s website,