MANCHESTER — There will be no redistricting changes in the fall, but Superintendent Debra Livingston says she intends to move forward next spring with a plan to alter school assignment zones.
Livingston told the Board of School Committee at its meeting Monday that she didn't believe minor changes proposed by her predecessor, Thomas Brennan, could be implemented as planned this fall.
The announcement was the latest setback for school redistricting, several versions of which have been proposed over the past four years, with the goal of evening out class sizes at city schools.
“It is something that needs to be done in the near future,” Livingston told the board. “We need to do something to ensure class size is more evenly distributed over the school district and to develop some feeder patterns, so children when they’re beginning school, and continue to live in the same house, they know where they’ll graduate from high school.”
Livingston said she planned to bring a redistricting plan forward to the board in March and to involve parents in the discussion in April.Brennan had proposed a long-range redistricting plan that included proposals for a central preschool and the conversion of Manchester High School West into a multi-use school facility. As a more immediate step, Brennan proposed minor changes to school zone boundaries and to reduce the number of students who attend schools outside their zone.Letters to parents concerning these changes went out late in the spring.
Mayor Ted Gatsas has long pushed for redistricting changes. He had no comment Monday on Livingston’s announcement.
In other business Monday, the school board voted to allocate $94,000 to replace the bleachers at Manchester High School West in time for the start of the school year.
The board's Finance Committee had recommended referring the proposal to the aldermen and the city's bond counsel. But Mayor Gatsas said the school board should find the money in the district’s budget to ensure the bleachers are replaced promptly.
“This board has to step up and decide if the bleachers are important enough to move some line item," Gatsas said. “It’s unreasonable to send this to the aldermen in September. I think they’re going to send it back.”
Ward 10 board member John Avard agreed.
“I was talking to administrators at West in June,” he said. “They found that there will be 77 events right at the beginning of the year that would have to be changed because of the condition the bleachers are in. I don’t think it’s fair for any student to have to go through that.”
The bleachers have long been on the list of needed school repairs, but an inspection by a contractor found that they were in such a state of disrepair that they should be replaced.
The board voted to allocate the funds for the bleachers from the district's salary line, with the expectation that other budgetary adjustments will be made to restore the line during the course of the school year.