Deadline Extended for D-Y Funding Agreement, Regional Agreement Still Uncertain

YARMOUTH – A deadline from the state for the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District to secure funding for a new middle school has been extended, but uncertainty remains for getting approval of a new regional agreement from the state prior to town meetings.

Last week, the Massachusetts School Building Authority extended an original April 11 deadline for the school district to sign an agreement to receive $44 million in funding. That letter would require no pending legal action or a threat of a lawsuit related to the project.

Yarmouth selectmen voted in January to sue the school district over the process used to win approval for the proposed $117 million regional middle school, which bypassed town meetings and passed by just 25 votes during a district-wide vote.

Officials in Yarmouth said they would drop the lawsuit if a new regional agreement is approved by both towns this spring.

“They have extended that deadline to June 30 in hopes that we will be able to resolve issues with the regional agreement and also, mainly, the pending litigation,” said Carole Woodbury, the school district superintendent.

A new regional school agreement that would lessen the burden for Yarmouth and increase costs for Dennis has received support from selectmen in both towns and will be before town meeting voters next month.

The amended agreement would have Dennis cover 35 percent of the costs of the proposed new regional middle school and gradually increase the town’s share of operating costs over the next five years to a fixed 65-35 split.

The new agreement approved by the school committee included some housekeeping, including the removal of outdated language, making some language gender neutral, and removing schools which no longer exist.

The major changes were made to how the communities share operating and capital costs.

Current operating costs are based on the number of students each town sends to district schools.

The new agreement would use the foundation formula, which counts all students for whom the district is financially responsible, including charter and school choice students. The formula does not include private or parochial school students.

When the current agreement was approved 20 years ago charter and school choice did not exist.

The operation costs changes would also gradually increase Dennis’ share over the next five years. The proposed split for the 2019-2020 school year would be 68 percent for Yarmouth and 32 percent for Dennis.

The Dennis share would then increase by 1 percent each year until 2024 until the split is fixed at 65-35. The percentage would hold in the third year to provide relief for Dennis.

The new agreement would also divide capital costs, such as new schools, at 65 percent for Yarmouth and 35 percent for Dennis.

The change would increase costs for Dennis as the current agreement is based on enrollment.

If the new school is not built the agreement also states that each town would be responsible for 100 percent of the renovation costs for the school in their town. The renovations would be required for the Mattacheese Middle School in West Yarmouth and the Nathaniel H. Wixon School in South Dennis.

The amended agreement also must be approved by the state’s Department of Secondary and Elementary Education. That department recently notified regional school officials that it will not have time to review the entire updated agreement prior to town meetings.

“We sent them a pretty extensive revision and they felt in order for them to get that reviewed before we got to town meetings would be a challenging task because it’s a really comprehensive, in-depth review that they have to do,” Woodbury said.

The department asked school officials to move forward with only the most important change in the agreement that would allow the new school project to proceed prior to town meeting, with the remaining changes to be made before the fall.

Section 4 of the regional agreement covers the operating costs and capital costs, and how they are split up between the towns.

“In conversations with them they felt that would be the most optimum if they could focus on that area,” Woodbury said. “The school committee did vote to go along with that.”

Articles for the full updated regional agreement will be on town meeting warrants in both towns. It is unclear if the votes will take place on the full amended agreement of if the articles would be amended on the floor to just include the Section 4 updates.

“I’m just hopeful that people can put whatever disagreements they have aside and put the students first,” Woodbury said. “But I really think that we are at a critical juncture right here with being able to set aside some differences and being able to demonstrate that people can work together for the greater good.”

About NewsCenter

The award-winning NewsCenter provides the Cape Cod community with a constant, credible source for local news. We are on the job seven days a week.
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy