Over 54% of Bourne’s eighth graders have chosen to attend a school other than Bourne High School next year. This has been all over the news for the past week and is a sad thing to behold.
We Told You So
We have written for over two years on the topic of school competition on Cape Cod.
In an area whose school population has declined more than 20% in the past decade, there must be winners and losers. There are barely enough students to justify the existence of so many school districts.
Indeed, we have chronicled the “winners” like Nauset High School and the two local charter schools. We chronicled the possible “come back” of Dennis-Yarmouth and the victims like Chatham, Harwich and Provincetown.
Now the school completion chickens have come home to roost in Bourne.
What Happened? Demographics got ‘em.
Bourne has a high school that would make any small town proud. Bourne High School is a stand-alone high school with decent standardized test scores, interesting sports teams, an apparently thriving fine arts program and a small enough student body where everyone knows one another.
Over the past week we have looked at Bourne’s schools from almost every objective angle, looking for a reason why 101 of 188 eighth grade graduates would emigrate to other schools. At the end of it all, we can’t see a single obvious thing that Bourne “did wrong”.
So what did Bourne High School do wrong? Honestly - nothing. Demographics got ‘em.
Bourne is a town where 27% of the students come from low income homes and 27% receive free or reduced lunch. 70% of their “departing” eighth graders are heading to Upper Cape Regional Tech.
Imagine you’re a low-income parent on Cape Cod with a child about to enter high school. You’re pretty sure you won’t be able to afford a college education for your child. “The Tech” offers your son or daughter an education that will graduate them “employable” in a skilled trade. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of such an opportunity?
We think this exodus is more about employability and opportunity than anything that Bourne has done wrong in their schools.
The Bourne Extinction? Join a couple other High Schools.
If Bourne continues to shed half of their eighth graders each year, we may be looking at an extinction event for Bourne High School in the near future.
As the Cape’s overall school population continues to fall, we expect to see at least two more high schools disappear in the next five to seven years. Already Provincetown High School has gone dark, while Chatham and Harwich were forced to merge their high schools. If Bourne High continues to bleed out, we may well see their remaining students traveling to Falmouth within five years.
Sandwich and Mashpee have similar problems, and since there is no apparent improvement in the ever-dropping Cape student population, we suggest that one solution is a four-town region of Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee and Sandwich.
Sometimes You Can’t Evolve
Sometimes nature selects a particular species for extinction. There’s nothing to be done about it – natural selection has done its work.
Short of turning Bourne High School into a tech/academic hybrid, there isn’t much Bourne can do to retain its students. If parents want their kids employable straight out of high school, they will choose Upper Cape Tech. If a child draws a “golden ticket” to Sturgis Charter School’s “IB for All” program, nothing Bourne does will cause them to remain at BHS.
With other school districts we can usually identify something they can do differently to retain their students. We haven’t found that “smoking gun” in Bourne.
The Bourne Extinction is about opportunities simply not available in even the best small town high school.
What Do You Think?
If you’re part of the Bourne public schools community and want to share your views on how to save Bourne High School, pleasecomment below or send a letter to [email protected] and include a way for us to contact you.