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Manchester school redistricting plan to be unveiled tonight

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 27. 2013 11:03PM

MANCHESTER - The Board of School Committee is expected to get its first long-awaited look at a redistricting plan for the 2013-2014 school year tonight.

The Special Board of School Committee meeting will get under way at 7 p.m. in Manchester City Hall.

The school board voted in September to give Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan the authority to develop a redistricting plan for city schools, the first since 1998. Tonight, Mayor Ted Gatsas expects to see those plans for the first time.

"From what I understand, he is ready to present them," said Gatsas. "I haven't seen them, so I can't share any details, but I understand they follow the guidelines we gave them and put all the preschool students in one central location."

Calls to Brennan last night seeking comment or information on the plan were not returned.

In September, board members gave Brennan 30 days to come up with the redistricting plan, while also giving him the power to implement it for the next school year. They have been waiting ever since to see such a plan.

"He has come in a couple times to say that he needed more time on it, which wasn't a problem," said Gatsas. "But it's been a while, and I bet people will be interested to see what he came up with."

The 11-2 vote taken in September, with members Roger Beauchamp and Kathy Staub opposed and the ailing Roy Shoults absent, gave Brennan the authority to redraw school district lines to balance class sizes next year. At the time of the vote, members made it clear they didn't want to create a situation in which students were changing schools in the middle of an academic school year.

Redistricting was part of a six-point school reform plan presented by Gatsas at a special meeting of the school board just days before the vote. One of those six points was placing preschool students in a central location.

"Change is difficult, but must be embraced," Gatsas said just prior to the vote as he explained his plan.

Brennan said in September he would prefer to make the most extensive use of his new redistricting authority to redraw district lines for the city's high and middle schools, while "tweaking" the elementary schools.

"There are pockets where we can make adjustments at middle schools and the high schools," Brennan said. "I would make minimal adjustments to grades K-5."

Gatsas said the city has yet to find a location for the preschoolers.

"First, we need to see what the plan is," said Gatsas. "Then we can start looking around for a good location, one that meets the needs of the district while staying within our budget. We need to start scanning the area to see what's available."

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