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May 05. 2013 10:12PM

Manchester goes to court this week to stop Hooksett exodus from schools

MANCHESTER - Manchester school officials file head to court this week in a bid to stop Hooksett from allowing its high school students to go somewhere other than Manchester schools.

"My understanding is the (request for an) injunction is supposed to be completed by Wednesday," said Mayor Ted Gatsas, who chairs the city's school board.

Hooksett has exempted 60 to 70 eighth-graders from attending Manchester high schools next school year.

At $8,500 per student, that would mean the loss of $500,000 to $600,000 in school tuition for Manchester next school year.

Manchester wants the children to "come to Manchester and if not, send the dollars," Gatsas said.

"Manchester would prefer to have the kids," Gatsas said.

"This is not about the money. It's about the kids. If you take the kids out, it creates a $500,000 to $600,000 shortfall," he said. "That could fund 10 to 12 teachers."

"If you don't have the funds to do it, you'd have to cut something," he said.

The district planned to file the injunction request last week, but school Superintendent Tom Brennan said the situation changed.

"New facts and information have come to light since the motion was made on Monday," Brennan said in a statement. "We want to properly investigate those facts and information before filing anything with the court. Other than that, our attorney has advised us not to comment further."

He said he hoped to "have it done by the end of the week."

The news didn't sit well with one Hooksett school board member.

Vice Chairman David Pearl said the issue should be settled in Concord, not the courts.

"In my reading of the contract, it is very clear we should go to the Board of Education and seek a resolution of the problem we have in the contract," he said. "That is the path Hooksett is on. I don't know the path that Manchester is on."

He said the Hooksett board made numerous attempts to meet with its Manchester counterpart. He said the town's tuition contract with Manchester doesn't limit how many students can be exempted from attending Manchester schools.

Pearl said at least 64 Hooksett eighth-graders have petitioned, on a case-by-case basis, for permission to attend another public high school other than one in Manchester.

The cutoff date is May 31 for the next school year.

Pearl said Hooksett continues to pay more than $900,000 annually for its share of capital costs to help cover the bill for renovations Manchester made to its schools years ago.

"That is a cost we pay regardless of the number of students that go," he said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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