Putnam Central School’s 35 students may have company this fall. The district has adopted a new program to accept out-of-district students at no charge.
Facing declining enrollment, Putnam Central School has decided to accept out-of-district students at no charge beginning this fall.
“There will be zero cost to parents and local taxpayers,” Superintendent Matt Boucher said of the new program. “Our classrooms aren’t near capacity. We have the programs in place. There are no negatives.”
Putnam is a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade school with 35 students. The district pays tuition to send 40 other students to Ticonderoga Middle School and Ticonderoga High School.
Boucher expressed admiration for neighboring Ticonderoga and Whitehall school districts, noting the new Putnam program is not designed to compete with other schools.
“If a parent feels their child could benefit from attending a smaller school, we’re available and would like to help,” Boucher said. “We’re not looking to take students away from other schools.”
The superintendent said the tuition-free program was adopted by the school board to meet several goals — stem declining local enrollment, add diversity to the student body, create increased academic competition and boaster athletic teams.
“There is competition in all areas of life,” Boucher said. “Competition is a good thing. We need more students to create a competitive atmosphere.”
The entire tuition-free program is detailed at the school’s website, www.putnamcsd.org People can also call the school at 547-8266 for information.
Out-of-district parents will be responsible for student transportation.
Putnam school officials have pondered the tuition-free program the past three years.
“We’ve had some interest and discussion the past several years,” Boucher said, “but the board has been hesitant. Now we see some of the things other schools are doing, like Newcomb, and we realize there are options for us. This seems to be the best option for Putnam.”
Newcomb Central School began accepting out-of-district students, many of them foreign, when faced with dwindling enrollment a decade ago. That program has stabilized enrollment and allowed Newcomb to retain its local school.
“The state expects more and more,” Boucher said. “The pressure to consolidated (with another school) is growing. Yet our resident know its advantageous for the community to keep our school open.”
Parents who decide to send their students to Putnam will be getting a real bargain, Boucher said. A New York State Department of Education tuition formula values a Putnam education at $32,000 a year. Putnam now pays Ticonderoga Central School District $12,000 for each student attending middle and high school.
Facing a state-imposed 2 percent tax cap and other mandates, Boucher said schools must be willing to make changes.
“You must have an open mind and do things differently to continue meeting the needs of students and taxpayers,” the superintendent said. “There’s no more business as usual.”