EASTHAM — The Nauset Regional High School building project committee has scheduled a series of Zoom meetings leading up to the March 30 district-wide vote on the renovation project. The meetings are scheduled for eight Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. from Feb. 3 through March 24. Opportunities for public questions and answers are on the agenda.
The scheduled topics for the upcoming meetings include “Other Options” (Feb. 10), “Education 2050” (Feb. 17 and 24), and “School Choice” (March 3). Zoom links to the weekly meetings can be found at nausetbuildingproject.com under “Meetings & Events.”
School Supt. Thomas Conrad’s office has also been putting out information on school choice, which has emerged as a major point of contention in relation to the project. A report issued on Jan. 22 was sent to the select boards and finance committees of the district’s four towns.
“School Choice provides a significant revenue stream (1.74 million in FY20) that not only enables Nauset Middle School and Nauset High School to offer an extensive program of studies, but the funds also allow the District to reduce assessments (taxes) to the member towns,” the superintendent’s report states.
Students who live outside the district can attend Nauset schools through the choice program. The district receives $5,000 for each such student. Critics of the renovation plan say that results in a deficit that is passed on to the district’s taxpayers. But the superintendent’s report contends that, in most cases, the cost of educating a school-choice student is limited to the cost of consumable supplies.
This point was also noted by Eastham Finance Committee members, who had lamented at their Jan. 13 meeting that they had never received the incremental cost information they had requested from the district last March.
“There have been several letters to the editor and articles in the paper where people who are opposed to this plan have done what I call a straight-line calculation of the cost of educating these choice students,” said finance committee member George Deptula. “They just take the gross cost and divide it by the number of students and say each choice student is costing us tens of thousands of dollars and all we get back is $5,000.
“The straight-line method is unrealistic and frankly misleading,” Deptula added. “You got fixed costs that you can’t allocate on a straight-line basis to the choice students. The incremental cost is the response to that. You’ve got to show you’ve got a whole bunch of costs that are going to be there whether or not you’ve got choice students.”
The superintendent’s report acknowledges that there are six or seven more teachers on staff — at a cost of approximately $644,085 — in the 2020-2021 school year as a result of the high school’s having 198 school-choice students. The added teachers help keep classes at a reasonable size.
“With expected revenue from School Choice in FY20 to be $1,735,199 and FY21 to be $1,549,403, the School Choice program is clearly financially beneficial to our District,” the report states.
Other stated benefits of the choice program included the addition of students from diverse backgrounds, races, and cultures, and a wider variety of courses the school can offer.
According to the report, without choice students, the school would likely not be able to offer some courses, including advanced placement art, American Sign Language, level 4 German, Latin 2, criminology, botany, salt water ecosystems, American pop culture, and some sections of A.P. calculus or A.P. statistics.
“These courses not only attract students to Nauset from all over Cape Cod, but they provide an unmatched opportunity for member students to challenge themselves and pursue their individual interests and passions,” the report states.
Editor’s note: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that six or seven teachers were hired for the 2020-2021 school year at the high school. Though they were on the staff, they were not all hired in that year.