March 11. 2018 1:13AM

Paul Feely's City Hall: School district looks to expand middle school credit

By PAUL FEELY


On Monday, the school board's Committee of Curriculum and Instruction is expected to discuss details of a proposal allowing students at city middle schools the opportunity to earn high school credit toward graduation.

Students at the Middle School at Parkside currently receive high school credit for some courses through an agreement the school has with Manchester High School West. The draft proposal up for discussion Monday night would offer the same opportunity to students at South Side Middle School, Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School and Hillside Middle School.

Under the proposal, credit will be awarded "upon satisfactory demonstration and mastery" of the course requirements, based on the following guidelines:

. Course curriculum must be comparable to a high school-level course offered;

. High school credit may be awarded subject to demonstration of mastery;

. Mastery may be determined by a 70 percent or better score on a final exam;

. If a student demonstrates mastery, the middle school credit will be shown on the student's high school transcript and be included in the credits for high school graduation. The course grade/credit will not be figured in the calculation of the high school grade point average (GPA).

. If a student does not meet mastery, the middle school course will not be shown on the student's high school transcript.

Program details, including how and when the students take the courses, are expected to be discussed when the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction meets Monday at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

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Last week the aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement approved a request from city engineer Todd Connors to seek a state grant to partially fund a "new concept" developed by public works staff called "Mobile Construction Project Management."

According to Connors, the idea would streamline the "data collection, engineering, and administration" associated with the city's road program. Staff would use mobile devices at work sites to compile and access data in real time.

"Digital files would be at the engineer's fingertips during construction," Connors said, and the files are combined with inspection reports and field testing data to create a permanent record of work done.

The estimated cost of the proposal is $30,000 - $24,000 in grant money from the State Transportation Innovation Council program, with a $6,000 local match funded through the annual road bond.

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The city's Planning and Community Development Department has been given the go-ahead from aldermen to apply for a $3.4 million Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration (LHRD) Grant from the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.

The city is scheduled to complete a FY 2015 LHRD grant on Nov. 2. City staff say they planned to complete lead reduction work in 185 units using FY 2015 grant funds, but now expect to complete work on 220 units by November.

Planning department staff estimate the city will have at least 20 additional properties in need of lead abatement funding by next fall, which is when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would release project funding for the FY 2018 grant cycle.

"Applying for this grant funding would allow the city to continue addressing the presence of lead-based paint hazards for lower income Manchester residents," city planner Leon LaFreniere told aldermen.

The grant term would be for three years and would clear lead hazards in a minimum of 175 housing units, according to LaFreniere. If the grant application is accepted, staff members estimate the city's portion of matching funds would be approximately $100,000 per year for three years, covered by Community Development Block Grant dollars.

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City schools are getting a piece of the Public School Infrastructure Fund pie.

More than $16 million has already been allocated to schools across the state from the fund - made possible by a surplus from the 2017 state budget - for critical security improvements, including reinforced windows and doors, state-of-the-art exterior door locking systems and early detection systems.

According to paperwork sent to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas by state Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, the following applications from Manchester school officials have been approved for funding:

. $87,400 for school door lock upgrades at Manchester High School Central;

. $45,600 for school door locking upgrades at Memorial High School;

. $52,440 for school door locking upgrades at Manchester High School West;

. $22,662.40 for closed-circuit TV installation at McLaughlin Middle School;

. $4,109.60 for access control at Middle School at Parkside;

. $27,772 for closed-circuit TV installation at Southside Middle School,

. $37,750 for plaster ceiling work in several school buildings around the district.

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Mayor Joyce Craig has joined 236 mayors from 47 states and territories in opposition to the Trump administration's proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. Craig signed onto a letter in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed 'Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.'

In the letter, Craig and her colleagues urge EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt not to repeal the plan, a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's effort to tackle climate change by cracking down on emissions from power plants. The rule has been in limbo during litigation, and President Donald Trump wants it revoked, as Pruitt has proposed.

"We strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change," the mayors wrote.

The rules, imposed in 2015, aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030.

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City resident and activist Glenn Ouellette is helping to organize a 25-member Citizen's Economic Development Committee, consisting of two representatives from each ward and a chairman. Initial projects the committee will consider taking on include a possible celebration at City Hall Plazas in June for Manchester's 172nd birthday.

If interested in joining the committee, contact Ouellette at queencityexaminer@gmail.com or 289-6835.

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The YMCA of Downtown Manchester recognized the school district during its Community Partners Luncheon event, noting the partnership with Manchester schools is a key component of several programs.

Last summer, 131 students participated in the Power Scholars program at Parkside Middle School, and during the 2016-2017 school year more than 120 students were served in the YMCA START program at Beech Street School and Henry Wilson Elementary School. There are also 90 students taking part in the YMCA STAY program at the city's four middle schools.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.