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Vargas, school board to renew Manchester redistricting talks

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 11. 2017 11:29PM




MANCHESTER — Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas plans to open discussions with school board members on the next phase of redistricting in city schools early next year.

Vargas brought up the topic during the Superintendent’s Communications portion of Monday night’s school board meeting.

“There has been more than 10 years of discussion,” said Vargas. “It is time to put it to rest.”

Last April school board members voted to approve a new school feeder plan, referred to at the time as “phase one” of a school redistricting effort.

The proposal — brought forth by Vargas — is currently in effect across the district. Under the plan:

• Students at Parker Varney, Northwest and Gossler schools go to Middle School at Parkside and then Manchester High School West;

• Students at Smyth, Webster, McDonough and Wilson attend Hillside Middle School and on to Manchester High School Central;

• Hallsville, Jewett, Highland Goffe’s Falls and Bakersville students go on to Southside Middle School and then to Manchester Memorial High School;

• Green Acres and Weston students attend McLaughlin Middle School and Memorial High School.

Vargas said on Monday he hopes to bring forth the results of a district-wide facilities study — showing exactly how space is utilized and available in each classroom in each school — in time for the first or second meeting of the school board in January. He also plans on producing a timeline of sorts, laying out when a so-called ‘phase 2’ of redistricting would be ready to present to the public for feedback and tweaking before going to the full board for a possible vote next spring.

“We delayed our ongoing redistricting work to see what the facilities study would show,” said At Large board member Rich Girard.

A year ago a suggestion from a sitting alderman that the city should tear down Central High School and replace it with “a nice strip mall” drew outrage from school alumni. Ward 6 Alderman Nick Pappas made the comments during a larger discussion on redistricting in Manchester with Andrew Provencher, as the two served as guest co-hosts for the “Girard At Large” radio show, filling in for vacationing host and At Large school board member Rich Girard. Pappas and Provencher were discussing the idea of closing one of the four public high schools in the Queen City to address decreasing enrollments and a looming school budget deficit in the millions.

Monday night, school board Vice Chair Art Beaudry of Ward 9 briefly resurrected talk of closing a school, while promising to wait to “see the results of the facilities study.”

“I just don’t know how we can justify having so much open space in our high schools, just because we ‘bleed green’ or don’t want to touch a high school on the West Side,” said Beaudry. “Any company would have looked at starting to close their businesses down if their buildings were less than 40 percent occupied. We could take that money and put it back into the elementary schools where we really need it.”

Details of the redistricting can be found at https://sites.google.com/a/mansd.org/redistricting/.

pfeely@unionleader.com


Education Local and County Government Manchester


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