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Goffstown School Board portable classroom decision draws criticism

GOFFSTOWN — An effort is under way to get the school board to change its decision to switch the portable classrooms and the library at Maple Avenue Elementary School.

Two weeks ago, the board voted to approve a plan submitted by administrators, including Principal Suzanne Psyzka, that would move fourth-grade classes from the portable classrooms to the library inside the main building.

The books and book racks now in the library would then be moved out to the portable classrooms. The new arrangement, which will take effect in September, was recommended by Psyzka because of concerns about security.

One parent, however, doesn’t like the idea, saying it would make books less accessible to students.

“I understand Suzanne’s concerns about the portables, but in my opinion she’s overreacting,” wrote Elizabeth Dubrulle in an email urging other parents to attend the May 20 school board meeting. “In her effort to avoid one terrible but extremely unlikely outcome, she’s introduced several unpleasant and likely outcomes in its place.”

Dubrulle said once the library is relocated to the portable structure, it will be closed to students, and that students will only be able to have access to books by ordering them in advance.

“There’s no way my grade-schooler could possibly know what she wanted to order from the library without looking at the books,” Dubrulle said. “At her age, she needs to browse so she can pursue any topic that catches her interest.”

A second concern for Dubrulle is that making the switch will lead to larger class sizes in the fourth grade.

“The plan calls for the creation of one giant fourth-grade classroom with 30-plus kids in it and two teachers,” she wrote in her email. “If my math is correct, then all the other fourth-grade classes will also end up being bigger to accommodate the overflow.”

Despite Dubrulle’s arguments against the plan, school board member Dan Cloutier said he voted in favor of Pyszka’s recommendation.

“My vote went to the security of the children,” he said, citing recent police-related incidents that have occurred within proximity of the school.

As for students not being able to peruse books, Cloutier said he was satisfied with the system that Pyszka said would be put into place in September.

“They’ll still be exposing them to the physical, hard books,” he said. “They’ll pick the topic of the day and selections will be brought into the main building. We were told this is totally manageable and they will make it work.”

School Board Chairman Dian McCarthy voted against the administration’s proposal. Attempts to reach McCarthy for comment on her vote were unsuccessful.

Cloutier said before the books can be moved into the portable, the floor of the structure has to be reinforced so it can bear the weight of the books. He said there is money set aside in the school district budget to complete that project.

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