Dennis Selectmen Support New School Agreement

DENNIS – A new regional agreement for the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District will be before town meeting voters in both communities after Dennis Selectmen voted to support the agreement and place it on the warrant.

Yarmouth selectmen supported the agreement last week.

The new deal, approved earlier this month by the regional school committee, lessens the burden for Yarmouth and increases costs for Dennis.

The 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 school committee has been working over the last few months on the new agreement to relieve the tension between the two communities.

It took Dennis selectmen two votes to support the agreement Tuesday night. The first vote was 2-0 in favor with three members abstaining.

Selectman Bob Mezzadri later called for another vote and supported the agreement.

Former Selectman Cleon Turner believes the new agreement will pass at Dennis Town Meeting on May 7.

“Our town meetings have consistently supported school issues and I believe and I have faith in the fact that they will support this issue,” Turner said.

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

The legal action could jeopardize $44 million in state funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

District school officials must sign a letter of commitment with the MSBA by April 11 to secure the funding. The letter of commitment cannot be completed if litigation or a threat of legal action remains.

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

Dennis-Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Carol Woodbury said there are many things in the school district that can’t be made better with spending a lot of money.

“I hope that people will see how having a new school in the 21st Century that is built for the 21st Century and a little bit beyond will really enhance some of the things we are doing,” Woodbury said.

Selectman Cheryl McMahon was one of the board members who abstained.

“[In] this regional agreement all of the cost shift is on to Dennis,” she said. “There wasn’t even that consideration for a giveback to Dennis.”

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 agreement requires approval from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and town meeting voters in both communities.

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