Over 1,000 Cape Cod students use school choice

Competition for school choice students continues to escalate

DY narrows loss, Barnstable, Provincetown swing to a loss

By Walter Brooks

$74 million changing hands between school districts.Over 1,000 Cape Cod students took advantage of “school choice” to attend school in a different district last year. 

This resulted in over $74 million changing hands between the Cape’s school districts, according to data obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Dennis-Yarmouth turn-around?

In December’s DESE report, the state forecast that the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District would suffer a net loss of $1,543,799 as a result of students leaving the district.  The June 2012 report shows a DY loss of $1,352,948 – a swing “to the good” of $190,851.  DY had 96 students join the district under school choice but 321 Dennis and Yarmouth residents choose to leave.

Click here to see a larger version of the chart.DY Superintendent Carol Woodbury and her staff have worked hard this year to promote the “DY Advantage” campaign both to attract new students to the district and retain current students.  It appears that this program may be starting to work.  The December DESE report had forecast 78 students joining DY and 324 leaving.  The June report showed 96 students received and 321 lost. 

The December 2012 school choice report should prove a very telling one for the DY region.  If the trend continues in the correct direction it will indicate a more promising future for DY, though likely at another district’s expense.

Reversal of fortune in Barnstable and Provincetown

The state’s December data projected a $21,385 net gain for Barnstable schools but the district ended the year with a net loss of $163,673.  This represents a deterioration for Barnstable, which has usually come close to “net zero balance” between students leaving and joining under school choice. 

Provincetown also suffered a reversal of fortune, with a net gain of $76,715 forecast in December but a net loss of $118,796 posted on the June 2012 DESE report.

Clear “winners”

Chatham, Falmouth, Truro and Nauset are the only Cape districts showing a net gain in school choice students. Chatham, Falmouth, Truro and Nauset are the only Cape districts showing a net gain in school choice students.  Nauset and Chatham stayed close to the December DESE projections, while Truro exceeded the projection by 30% and Falmouth by 75%.

FY2012 was the last year for Chatham and Harwich as independent school districts.  Next year Harwich’s loss of $339,346 will likely factor against Chatham’s gain of $1,033,285. 

Truro may be experiencing gains as the dynamic in the Provincetown School District changes with the winding down of Provincetown High School.  Falmouth may be gaining students due to well-publicized problems in both the Mashpee and Sandwich school districts.

Nauset’s Elementary Districts Continue to Bleed

While the Nauset Regional School District – consisting of middle and high school buildings – saw a net gain of 221 choice students, the elementary districts inside the Nauset region did not accept inbound school choice students in FY 2012.  Consequently, the Orleans, Brewster, Eastham and Wellfleet elementary districts lost a total of 31 school choice students – a total of $230,017.

The danger with losing students at the elementary level is that they might stay in their new district for their entire K-12 career.  $230,017 per year for 13 years is nearly $3 million in money sent out-of-district.

Analysis:  school competition will escalate

A wild card in the school choice mix is the new Monomoy Regional School District.This week we learned that Barnstable’s school district will shortly return the Marstons Mills Elementary School to the town as surplus.  Dennis-Yarmouth is proceeding with the planned closing of the Laurence C. MacArthur Elementary School and has passed off the Simpkins Elementary School for elderly housing.

As CapeCodToday.com wrote in our “school competition” article on October 19, 2011, on any field of competition there must be winners and losers. 

Following June’s DESE report the winners appear to be consistent, though contenders like Dennis-Yarmouth may continue to surprise onlookers.  Another year or two of DY reversing its decline will begin to impact adversely the districts that had been siphoning out DY’s students. 

A wild card in the school choice mix is the new Monomoy Regional School District.  While the “shotgun wedding” between Chatham and Harwich will affect the school choice numbers in those two towns, the prospect of a brand new, state-of-the-art high school could attract many school choice students to Monomoy Regional High School when it opens in 2014.

With the Cape’s school population in general decline the competition between districts will continue to escalate.  The struggling districts have perhaps a year or two to re-invent themselves if they hope to avoid merging with other school districts.

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