Claremont in talks to guarantee spots for Croydon tuition students 

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 12-09-2023 12:18 AM

CLAREMONT — The Claremont School Board this week unanimously approved a motion to negotiate an agreement with the Croydon School District that would establish Claremont as a so-called anchor district for the town.

Wednesday’s vote, which included no public discussion, came after the board held a brief non-public session that included Croydon School Board Chairman Aaron McKeon and Croydon Superintendent Frank Perotti.

“We just need to work out the details of the contract,” McKeon said outside the meeting after the vote by the School Board. “Assuming that goes OK, they would become our anchor school.”

McKeon said the agreement means Claremont would guarantee acceptance of any student from Croydon in grades 5 through 12 and also provide additional services, if needed, up to age 22. Croydon, which currently has one student enrolled in Claremont, would be responsible for transportation, McKeon said. At its Nov. 1 meeting, the Claremont School Board approved tuition for K-12 students in 2024-25 at $16,000.

The Croydon Village School educates students through the fourth grade. This year there are 53 tuition students attending schools in Newport, Sunapee, Mount Royal Academy, Lebanon and Kimball Union Academy.

“It provides stability for the district; that every student will have a school willing and able to accept them,” McKeon said. “We will still have that school-choice option for parents to go elsewhere if they so desire but we will have that guarantee (from Claremont).”

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Newport previously served in the anchor district for Croydon, but that changed in August when a new tuition agreement was approved that requires Croydon students to apply for acceptance at Newport schools, similar to the other districts that accept Croydon students. The only change in the agreement is that Newport no longer guarantees it would take all Croydon students.

The Newport School Board announced at the end of last school year it would not renew its tuition agreement with Croydon. It gave three reasons, McKeon said in October. One was capacity, the second was special needs and the third was disruptive behavior.

“They don’t want to be married to students who don’t want to be there,” McKeon said in October.

Public school districts are required to take all students who live in a district, but state law allows receiving districts to deny admission to students from other districts.

“That creates stress for families,” McKeon said Wednesday about Newport no longer guaranteeing to accept all Croydon students. “We could run into a situation when it is tough to place a student, and this will alleviate those concerns.”

Earlier this week, McKeon said the Croydon district was exploring options with other school districts in light of Newport’s decision and that Claremont had express some interest.

“Our general philosophy is we want to make school choice easier, not harder,” McKeon said.

The Claremont School Board, McKeon and Perotti met in a non-public session that was posted on the agenda as “consideration of a school board entering into a student or pupil contract.”

The School Board voted to seal the minutes of the non-public meeting after returning to public session.

The Croydon School District has been in the news in recent years, mostly for a vote at the annual school meeting in March 2022 that slashed the proposed $1.7 million budget by nearly half, cutting $800,000. The cut was restored by residents in a vote two months later.

“In light of the events the last couple of years we are now trying to bring more stability to the district,” McKeon said. “I think this is a step in the right direction.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.