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Londonderry board OKs renting trailer for Moose Hill School

Union Leader Correspondent

November 16. 2017 3:04AM
Moose Hill School in Londonderry (CHRIS GAROFOLO/Correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — The immediate space restrictions at Moose Hill School led the Londonderry School Board Tuesday to approve renting an office trailer to provide more room at the Pillsbury Road facility.

And there’s another immediate issue — the recent natural disasters in Texas and Florida have increased the demand for trailers in hurricane-impacted areas, leading to a shortage in New England.

The board unanimously but reluctantly approved the central office recommendation to rent an office trailer for the second semester of this academic year.

Administrators are currently eyeing a ground-level, 8-foot-by-40-foot unit that would have hookups to the school’s electricity, internet and intercom, security and fire systems.

The trailer will not be connected to the main building for a few months, costing $6,500 for the rental. There is an additional $5,000 for classroom furniture and technology.

Acquiring a temporary trailer will allow the Friends program at the school to expand to a second classroom at a time when they are seeing an influx of students who qualify for the program.

Friends, a self-contained program for autistic children between the ages of 3 and 5, has the maximum number of students already at Moose Hill, and six more are expected to arrive in January.

State law dictates that this program cannot have more than 12 students, so Friends is expanding into two sections for 2018.

As a result of the enrollment bump, the central office looked to alleviate the space issue by relocating the so-called Tiger room, an area divided into segments for small-group and one-on-one instruction, into the temporary trailer and reconfigure it with the appropriate technology and furniture until the end of the 2017-18 school year.

The maximum time students would spend in the trailer is 30 minutes.

Scott Laliberte, superintendent of the town’s school district, acknowledged this is not an ideal situation, but the rapid growth in Moose Hill has left no better options.

“I believe, in my opinion, this is the most viable option,” he said. “None of us like the option of a temporary trailer providing instructional space.”

Because of the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, trailers for rent are scarce, which prompted the board’s decision to act quickly. The district needs to place an order now to ensure that a trailer is functional by January.

While a majority of board members supported the vote to rent, some did not.

Board member Steve Young said he felt they were forced into the option. He also was uncomfortable with the fact students will have to go outside during the winter months to get to the trailer.

“Let me make this clear, this motion means we’re telling parents that their 5-year-olds, their 4-year-olds and even 3-year-olds are going to be going outside the Moose Hill facility to go to some space,” he said. “They are going to exit the building, regardless of the temperature or environment.”

Young asked if the district considered moving the adults and equipment into the trailer, to which Laliberte said the teachers’ break room has already been converted into a reading space and the employee workroom has moved to the main office, where many also eat their lunch.

There are 16 classrooms in the school, and 14 are filled throughout the day, Laliberte said.

Fellow board member Nancy Hendricks asked how many children utilize the Tiger room and if there is a way to reallocate that room. Administrators said the Tiger room is used for kindergarten special education, but it is also used as a reward and behavior management support for students, meaning the number of children in the space fluctuates daily.

If the board had rejected the recommendation, the district would have needed to reduce the afternoon kindergarten to seven classes and increase the class size from 16 to 19 students.

But the larger issue was not about the class size, but moving 17 kindergarten students into a new class in the middle of the school year.

Laliberte said these students and parents have already developed a relationship with their teacher, and introducing them to a new educator is not in the best interest of the children.

Board Vice Chairman Jenn Ganem agreed with the administration, saying it does not seem as outrageous to rent the trailer as opposed to moving the students mid-semester.

Education Londonderry

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