Milford getting students, cash from Mason

MILFORD – Mason residents voted this week to send their middle and high school students to Milford, which means the school district will gain about 90 students and eventually about $700,000 in annual revenue.

Milford was competing with the North Middlesex (Mass.) Regional School District and had been negotiating with Mason, marketing the school district with evening presentations and a community forum.

Mason residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of Milford at a special meeting Wednesday.

“It’s good for them and good for us,” said Paul Dargie, school board vice-chairman. “We still have to work out final details.”

Mason, a town of about 1,300 people on the Massachusetts border, needed a new home for its sixth- through 12-graders since it voted to withdraw from the Mascenic district at Town Meeting in March.

Although Milford’s tuition costs were slightly higher than those of North Middlesex, Milford offered more convenience and lower transportation costs.

The high school and one middle school at North Middlesex are in Townsend, Mass., while a second middle school is in Pepperell, Mass. Milford has a middle and high school on a single campus.

Mason middle and high school students would have had to travel on four separate buses, Dargie said.

“I think people in Milford will be very happy about it,” said Peter Bragdon, Milford School Board chairman. “The deal really helps both Mason and Milford by allowing both to be more efficient with tax dollars.”

Mason will pay $8,435 per student under a preliminary agreement, he said, but the full revenue won’t come for awhile because Mason has a transition plan that allows high school students attending Mascenic Regional High School the choice of staying there or attending Milford.

Milford’s Sage School, an alternative school for students identified as “high risk,” was also an attractive feature because it educates students that otherwise would need expensive out-of-district placements.

Bragdon said transportation and special education are Mason’s financial responsibility, but other than that, Mason students will be treated like any other student and will have full access to sports and other activities.

Officials say there is plenty of room at the high school, but reading and foreign languages classes at the middle school are an issue.

They are “right at the edge,” Bragdon said, so “we may end up hiring one or two more teachers to keep class size down, depending on actual enrollment.”

Mason’s tuition is expected to make up for the extra cost.