NORTH BENNINGTON -- Against the will of some, the North Bennington Prudential Committee unanimously approved a policy change to allow two out-of-district sixth graders to attend the Graded School tuition-free at a special meeting Tuesday.
The district's tuition policy now allows students who complete fifth grade at NBGS to finish elementary school in North Bennington even if the family no longer lives within the school district. The policy previously stated North Bennington Graded School District could only accept an out-of-district student if the school district the student moved to paid the tuition. Now, there is no tuition requirement at all.
The new policy -- which is unlike any other district policy within Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union -- came after requests from two separate families who moved from the village to the town of Bennington prior to the start of the school year. Sixth grade students in Bennington typically attend Mount Anthony Union Middle School.
The Prudential Committee agreed it is in the best interest of the students to continue attending NBGS, although multiple residents spoke up against the revision because of concerns that taxpayers are now being asked to pay for children who do not live within the district.
"In this case we think the right thing is, for some students, that they be allowed to finish their sixth grade here because there are some students that, we believe, it wouldn't be the best fit if they, say, end up at the middle school," Chairman Raymond Mullineaux said. "Or they may just want to stay here and finish their sixth grade experience with their classmates."
Principal Thomas Martin said that just one sixth grade class is offered at the elementary school and the two out-of-district students will not require an additional teacher or add other expenses.
"If there's an additional child in the seat in sixth grade at the start of the school year, does that cause a change in our expenditures? The answer is no because we projected for a sixth grade and if we have 20 or 21 in that sixth grade the level of expenditures for our program will remain the same."
Even after the explanation, some members of the audience maintained the belief there will be additional expenses the district will take on for each child. Kathleen Wilkinson pointed out the school district may not count the children in its average daily membership this school year, meaning the state will not provide any reimbursement for the students next year. Mount Anthony is also prohibited from counting the children in their enrollment, which takes money away from them.
"The state is sending us money for them this year (based on their enrollment last year). In (the academic year 2013-2014) they will not show up in our count, and they will not show up in wherever they were supposed to be," Mullineaux said.
The board considered putting off the revised policy until next week as Mullineaux said he had spoken with someone who wished to address the change but could not make the special 1 p.m. meeting. After it was pointed out the two students could not attend the school until the policy is changed the board went into a brief executive session. Upon the board's return to public session it voted 3-0 to pass the revision.
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