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April 12. 2013 12:48AM

Keene officials considering elementary school options

KEENE - The Keene Board of Education plans to choose from seven options to reconfigure the Keene elementary school system Monday night.


The meeting is planned for 6 p.m. in Conference Room 100 at the SAU Building, 193 Maple Ave.

On Tuesday, Marinace Architects presented the different options to the board, though a committee and forum process over the past three years had already concluded converting the Jonathan M. Daniels School into a preschool for the district while using the four other elementary schools - Franklin, Fuller, Symonds and Wheelock - for the district's elementary education was the best option.

Earlier this year the school board pulled plans to ask for funding at the annual March meeting when plans for that conversion came in costlier than previously estimated, said SAU 29 superintendent Wayne Woolridge.

The school board plans to present a plan to voters at the March 2014 annual meeting, he said, but opted to hear alternatives from the architects before moving forward with consolidating Keene's five elementary schools into four schools, he said.

The other options presented include a plan to close all campuses, except Jonathan Daniels.

One plan would close Franklin and Wheelock. Two other plans would close one or the other.

Franklin and Wheelock are the only schools on the east side of town, so Woolridge said it is unlikely both would be closed.

"At this point it doesn't resonate with a lot of board members.," Woolridge said.

Woolridge said enrollment is declining and the anticipated 1,200 students can be well-served in four elementary schools.

However, the city's five current elementary schools are long overdue for renovations, which could be funded by the savings generated by consolidation, he said.

This is Keene's way of creating more efficient buildings that are better for students, Woolridge said.

Keene is not the only school district to face consolidation because of declining enrollment, he said.

The process has been made more difficult with the state's two-year moratorium on school building aid, he said.

"It's certainly never easy for a community to look at consolidating elementary schools. This is a tough conversation for people, but I think we are moving forward," Woolridge said. "We're trying to get the word out that these options are being talked about."

Whichever plan is chosen Monday night it would go through a planning and forum process before voters would have their say in March 2014, Woolridge said.

"This is not something that would be chiseled in stone," he said.

All seven plans are available at the district's website at www.sau29.org/knedist.



mpierce@newstote.com


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