The Tuckahoe and Southampton school districts — which are in the midst of examining the prospect of merging into one district — agreed this week on a tuition contract that means Tuckahoe graduates will exclusively attend Southampton High School in the 2013-14 school year.
Tuckahoe does not have a high school of its own, so parents have been given the option in recent years to either send their children to either Southampton High School or Westhampton Beach High School. Under the new exclusivity agreement, Tuckahoe School District residents who already attend Westhampton Beach High School will be able to continue their education there. But this year's eighth grade class at Tuckahoe must attend Southampton High School for ninth grade — or choose a private school.
The deal came about after the Tuckahoe School Board asked the Southampton School Board to lower the tuition rate charged to out-of-district students. Tuckahoe was feeling a budget squeeze, with an exceptionally large eighth grade class — 44 students — slated to enter high school in 2013. If Southampton could not lower tuition, Tuckahoe would look to other money saving options, such as exclusively sending students to Westhampton Beach and/or Hampton Bays, where the tuition rates were more affordable, or teaching ninth grade at Tuckahoe School.
Southampton officials told Tuckahoe that the only way it could offer a discounted tuition rate would be if Tuckahoe agreed to send all of its students to Southampton High School. "In effect, Southampton could charge a lower tuition rate per student if the number of students was larger," a statement from the Southampton School Board reads. "In addition, it was projected that Tuckahoe could save additional costs on transportation."
According to the Southampton School Board, the exclusivity agreement gives Southampton a predictable enrollment projection for budget and program planning. "The larger Tuckahoe enrollment at Southampton High School will enable the maintenance and possible expansion of academic and interscholastic athletic program opportunities for all students at lower costs," the School Board states. "We view the exclusive sending contract as a win-win for both school communities."
The school boards also each agreed this week on hiring SES Study Team, a firm based in the Albany area, to study the feasibility of merging the two districts.
The study is designed to end speculation on the benefits an drawbacks of a merger, and to obtain accurate, objective information through a neutral third party. The details of the study are prescribed by New York State, according to Tuckahoe School Board President Dr. Daniel Crough. He said during an October School Board meeting that the state needs certain information to know that a responsible decision is being made, though ultimately it will be the residents of the Tuckahoe and Southampton school districts who decide whether to proceed with the merger, via public referendum.