To the Editor:

The electorate of Bridgewater has been concerned for years over the poor academic achievement of the Shepaug Valley Middle/High School and the high cost of education per student.

Many residents have proposed inputs and have suggested solutions.

Two proposals stand out:

1) Adopt an agri-science program into the Shepaug curriculum, and;

2) tuition out Bridgewater students to neighboring districts that have superior academic achievement and lower cost of education.

Adoption of the agri-science program would cause major changes at the middle/high school:

The student body would be dominated by agri-science students within four or five years after the adoption.

More faculty would be required, as well as additional administrators. A major addition and modifications to the school building would be required.

Tuition out of Bridgewater students to neighboring districts would result in the withdrawal of the town from Region 12.

Middle and high school students would be educated in neighboring towns such as Brookfield or New Milford. Primary school students would be educated in Burnham School as they are now.

This letter is about the effects of the agri-science on Region 12.

Starting with the proposed budget of $21.6 million for next year's budget, a projection over 10 years grows to $23.1 million in school year 2024-25. This projection assumes a very conservative growth of 1 percent each year.

The latest demographic forecast of Dr. Prowda shows next year's Region 12 student population (pre-kindergarten to grade 12) would be 714 students and would decrease to 452 in 10 years.

Assuming a new agri-science program would bring in 200 new students into the high school toward the end of this 10-year forecast, the total number of students in the region would be 652 in 2024-25.

The agri-science tuition is set at $8,000 per student in Connecticut and the state provides an agri-science subsidy of $3,200 per student.

In school year 2024-25, this could result in $2.3 million added revenue for the region and would reduce the budget to $20.8 million.

While this appears to be moving in the right direction, consider that next year, 2015-16, the cost per student will be $30,266. This makes Region 12 one of the most expensive public school districts in Connecticut.

In 10 years, after modest budget growth, additional revenue and adding 200 students to the high school, the cost per student is projected even higher at $31,901.

This projection does not yet include the following:

1) Cost of staffing and operation of the proposed agri-science program.

2) Bonding and debt service for the proposed new agri-science wing and equipment.

3) Bonding and debt service for repairs to the Shepaug science labs.

4) Bonding and debt service for other needed repairs to the Shepaug building.

The estimates provided do not include the effects of these four factors because the Board of Education has yet to provide the estimated costs. When the factors are included the effect would add to the cost of education as cited above.

The region is not economically viable with the student population decreasing so rapidly.

Ed Wainwright

Loy Wilkinson

Bridgewater