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Manchester school officials fighting contract battle on two fronts

MANCHESTER - The school district's dispute with the two sending towns is moving forward on two different tracks, with district officials pressing for more information from their counterparts in Candia and preparing for a June court date with Hooksett.

Both towns have charged that conditions in Manchester schools, in particular crowded classes, violate the contract under which they send their high school students to city schools.

Both towns have allowed some parents to leave the Manchester district, but the Hooksett School Board has authorized a far greater number to leave. This has prompted the district to file an injunction against Hooksett, accusing it of violating the contract, which calls on the towns to send "all" their students to the district.

It's still not clear exactly how many students the Candia board has authorized to leave. According to an earlier estimate, 18 of its 54 eighth-graders have been allowed to go to other schools.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said he and Superintendent Thomas Brennan held a recent meeting with a member of the Candia board who told them that the number authorized to leave was "closer to 12," and that half of them were going to private schools, which would not involve the diversion of tuition money.

Members of the Board of School Committee on Monday directed Brennan to conduct further "due diligence" in order to determine precisely the number of students that have been allowed to leave the district.

Meanwhile, the first hearing in the lawsuit filed against Hooksett is scheduled for June 18 at Hillsborough Superior Court North, although it may be rescheduled for a couple days later due to medical procedure one of the attorneys is undergoing on that date.

The Hooksett School Board has allowed more than 60 students to leave the district, which could cost Manchester nearly $600,000. Hooksett officials have contended they're allowed to grant parents' requests to leave on a case-by-case basis.

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