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April 29. 2013 11:35PM

Manchester to take legal action against Hooksett for school move

MANCHESTER - District officials intend to take legal action against Hooksett to prevent the town from continuing to allow its high school students to leave the city.

In an escalation of the months-long dispute, the Board of School Committee voted unanimously Monday to have the district's attorney seek an injunction against the Hooksett board to block it from authorizing students to leave the district. The motion also directs the attorney to seek "restitution" for those students who do leave.

Hooksett pays tuition to Manchester for its high school students to attend city schools under a contract that runs through 2023. Hooksett pays the Manchester district $8,500 per student. If 70 Hooksett students leave the district, it will leave a $600,000 budget hole for the coming school year.

Hooksett officials have contended that Manchester is in breach of the contract on the grounds that the district has failed to meet minimum state standards - in particular by having classes with more than 30 students per teacher. The Hooksett School Board is already in the legal process of declaring Manchester in breach of the contract.

Manchester has in turn suggested that the Hooksett board was violating the contract by allowing dozens of students to leave the district. The contract requires Hooksett, as well as Candia, the remaining town in the contract, to send all of their public high students to Manchester.

Superintendent Thomas Brennan said that he had been informed that more than 70 Hooksett students had been authorized to leave the district.

"We continue to be informed of students being assigned to schools outside Manchester. Based on a letter I sent on your behalf, I ordered that they cease and desist," Brennan told the school board, referring to a letter he sent to Hooksett officials earlier in the year.

The motion to take legal action was made by the board's vice chairman, Dave Gelinas, who also proposed that Candia be copied in any legal communications.

Candia officials have also protested school conditions in Manchester, but they have maintained a dialogue with the city school board.

"We continue in a collaborative relationship," said Ward 1 board member Sarah Ambrogi.

Gelinas later withdrew his motion to include Candia in any legal communication.

tsiefer@unionleader.com

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