In an article in yesterday's Laconia Day Sun it was reported that enrollment at Belmont High School had dropped from about 500 to near 375 over the past several years. The declining enrollment is a regional problem and it ultimately leads to contentious battles at local school board meetings when reductions in force are proposed. Such is the case in Belmont. An interesting metric mentioned in the article is the cost per student in classes of optimum size versus much smaller class size. The issue currently in Belmont is for science classes that were 20+ going to below 10, with some below 5. "We can't ask you to pay for classes of that size," Clary said. The cost difference is about $1,200 per student. One science teacher is being dropped .
Despite the obvious impact of the precipitous decline in enrollment, some still do not think cutting staff is necessary. According to the article , an anonymous email as floating around warning of the dire consequences to the quality of education if this position were to be cut.
These decisions are never easy and it is almost a certainty that some will not be happy about it. We 're no different. The ABC Moultonborough 2015-2016 School Budget Recommendations and Comments has quite a bit to say about our local situation.
Our School District is being proactive and has hired a consultant to facilitate a strategic plan for the district. The discussion begins about 1 hour 4 minutes in on the video of the February 10th School Board meeting. Part of the scope of the work will be based upon current enrollment predictions. Hopefully if the public watches this portion of the video and participates in the process as the district has promised will be encouraged, the School Board will take into consideration that we all pay for this educational experience and the large majority of that money is paid with tax dollars of those that can't vote on how it is spent nor utilize the school system. Much of the rest is paid by folks that are average middle class or fixed income retirees who really are the majority of the full time residents of our town. The plan has to take that fact into consideration. The "truth" as you have read here, continues to be that we are paying $14M plus to educate 500 or so students.
I applaud the efforts of the school administration to seek help in developing a strategy to cope with what is the inevitable new normal. Thinking out of the box and finding innovative means to provide a quality education is a very good thing. How much does it really cost though to provide a "quality" education? In reality, it is up to every individual school district to define. While we can certainly afford to pay more than most, that should not be part of the equation.
I can appreciate that parents want the best for their children and keeping our schools as they are, but we need a healthy dose of reality mixed in and come to some realization that things have to change and as the new strategic plan may indicate, those changes may actually be for the better.