By Barbara Tetreault
MILAN — At the annual school meeting last week, Milan residents voted to dissolve the Berlin-Milan AREA Agreement in favor of an exclusive tuition agreement with the Berlin School District. Berlin city council must now approve both the withdrawal plan and the exclusive tuition agreement. If the city agrees, the tuition agreement would take effect on July 1, 2018, when the current AREA agreement expires. It would run for three years.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Bousquet explained that the AREA agreement requires Milan to send all students in grades 7-12 to the Berlin School District. Under the agreement, the Berlin school district guarantees the Milan students a place.
Parents can send their children to a different public school only under two criteria: 1) that it is in the best interest of the child or 2) denying the request would constitute an educational hardship. Berlin and Milan school boards must approve the decision.
The exclusive tuition agreement would give parents the option to send their child to a different public school with the approval of the Milan school board. The parents would not have to meet special criteria. The Milan school district will only provide transportation for students attending the Berlin middle and high schools. Parents sending children to other public schools would be required to provide transportation.
A motion that would make parents responsible for tuition costs above Berlin School District rate was defeated. A legal opinion provided by Attorney Barbara Loughman said it is unclear if a school board could require the sending parent to pay the different in tuition between Berlin School District and an unassigned school.
Bousquet said there was an in-depth discussion on the issue at the annual school meeting and residents asked a lot of good questions.
“It was a good back-and-forth,” he said.
Residents voted at the March 2016 annual school meeting to set up a Milan/Berlin Withdrawal Study Committee.
Milan School Board members Peter Donovan and Andrew Mullins served as co-chairs of the committee, which approved the plan presented at the school meeting last week. Also serving on the committee were Milan Selectmen Richard Lamontagne and Randy Fortin, Berlin School Board members Nicole Plourde and Scott Losier, and Bousquet.