The Future of Pentucket: Is it in Jeopardy?

Photo Source:

Photo Source:

In a brand new, multi million dollar building, Pentucket students are living their best life, or so it is thought. The new Pentucket middle-high school  looks amazing on the outside, yet it is the school’s budget that will prevent many opportunities for students in looking at life beyond high school. 


What is the override and what is at stake?

Pentucket is being forced to enter the 2023-2024 school year with a $2.1 million deficit. This means that as a result of higher operational costs, inflation, and much lower contributions from the state, Pentucket will have significantly less money than they did previously, forcing them to make some vast and damaging changes to adapt to their new resources. 


Without nearly enough money to keep the current environment, the district will have to cut about thirty five teachers, or 15% of the current staff. This not only leaves many people out of jobs, but without teachers there will be no way to run many of the current classes. A myriad of classes will be cut, primarily from the music and art departments, along with many elective programs. As a result, Pentucket will have to rework its graduation requirements, which would not only require less courses, but it would also make the high school less competitive, completely changing its reputation. 


Extracurricular activities and transportation resources will be reduced. Students who are in a one and a half mile radius from the school will not have access to buses and many sports opportunities will be limited or cut. Although it is unclear about the specifics, it is clear that all JV teams will be cut, as well as some teams being eliminated altogether.


Photo Source: Dan Thornton

How did this problem develop?

The main issue comes from a lack of state funding, which is minuscule compared to the rising costs of the school due to inflation. The state planned to give Pentucket a dismal .51% increase in funding, which is not nearly enough to cover the 10% inflation rate that raises the cost of supplies and materials for the school. In addition, utilities are up by 25%, and the cost of Massachusetts Private Education services are up 14% which is shocking compared to the usual 2%. 


What can we do?

In an attempt to avoid this problem, the surrounding towns of West Newbury, Merrimac, and Groveland have planned to vote for an override proposal. This would give the district $2.1 million, enough to cover increasing costs. Two meetings are planned for the three separate towns, one to place the vote on the ballot and the other to actually pass the override. Currently as of the vote on April 24th, the towns of West Newbury and Merrimac have voted to have the issue on the ballot for the vote on May 1st. This is a good sign, as YES votes for both meetings are required to pass the override. 


Why is there pushback?

It is believed among parents and students, as well as other members of the community, that West Newbury will pass the vote with no problems. There is some hesitation with the towns of Merrimac and Groveland, however. For both towns, there seems to be hesitation regarding the potential cost. For Merrimac specifically, the amount the taxes will be raised is concerning for many parents and residents of the town, as their taxes were previously raised for a new police station in addition to the cost increase resulting from the new school. 


Additionally, because there is a larger renter population in Groveland, there is very little support. There is a certain benefit for renting homes, such as lower prices for those who might be low income and short term living, that makes an increase in taxes unappealing. Since renting a home instead of buying is one more cost efficient, increasing taxes would increase the cost of living for someone who is likely only there short term. This largely defeats the purpose of renting, and without any benefit from them- most do not have children in the district- why would they pay more?


Moreover, within the three towns there are multiple older home communities. With a larger elderly population along with the senior living community Nichols Village, there is less support from families with children in the district. Many of these people have little or no relation to the school, and therefore have no motivation to pay more to fund any improvements. 


What already happened?

In last year’s failed override, Pentucket lost school field trips, nine high school athletic teams, its music program, and a middle school nurse, resulting in one nurse for over 930 students. On top of that, fees for sports and the before/after school program increased dramatically. Although some sports teams were previously cut altogether, there are less student athletes at Pentucket as the cost to play a single season of a sport is enough to stop students from playing sports all together. Yet, the worst part hit the elementary schools. Thirteen teachers were cut resulting in elementary classes (grades pre-k to 6th) of at least 25 students or more. Any more budget cuts to come will happen at the high school level as the elementary schools have nothing left to lose. 


How can you help?

If you want to get involved, create the future you want, and prevent this from happening to a more extreme, definite level, if you are able, go out and vote at your local town hall on May 1st. If you are too young, advocate for those who are able and share your opinion on why the school needs a better budget. 


Ways to vote:

  1. Go to your local town hall May 1st
  2. Mail in your vote 


Town Resources:

Town of Merrimac

Town of West Newbury

Town of Groveland


In the end, the future of Pentucket will be limited. Without the passing of the override budget, there is very little hope for any more successful years as we know them now. Little available resources and staff will create a dismal school environment with no bright future in sight. Ultimately, it is up to the residents, parents, and students of surrounding towns to sustain the promising, well reputable school district we have now.