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October 06. 2012 10:56PM

Crowding eased in many Manchester classrooms, but some still over limit


Manchester School Superintendent Thomas Brennan, on Jewett Street, in this file photo. (UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER — The city still has elementary school classrooms with class sizes that exceed state standards, but new school enrollment figures show 94 percent are within the limits set by the state.

A New Hampshire Sunday News review of school enrollment figures filed with the state by the Manchester School District last week also reveals that 98 percent of the elementary classrooms are within two students of the state limits.

State regulations set a maximum class size of 25 pupils in kindergarten through Grade 2, and 30 students in Grades 3 and above.

School districts are required to provide a report to the state detailing enrollment as of Oct. 1.

“We’ve been able to reduce some but not all” of the crowded classrooms, said Thomas Brennan, school superintendent, who allocated much of an additional infusion of cash from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to rehiring elementary school teachers.

Brennan said he has called back all the teachers the district has the money to pay. “I can’t add more teachers without funding,” Brennan said.

The superintendent said Friday he planned to take the weekend to evaluate the current status of classroom crowding in the city.

Oct. 1 is considered a benchmark day for determining enrollment, educators say, because school populations typically settle down after frequent changes in the first few weeks of school.

There are still a couple of classrooms in kindergarten through Grade 2 that are five or more students over the limit, one at Parker-Varney and the other at Hallsville.

In Grade 3 and above, the limit is 30 students. That number was exceeded in only six of more than 120 classrooms.

In the secondary schools, the number of overcrowded classes is harder to gauge because students have a half-dozen or more separate classes each day.

The district has come under fire from school officials in Candia and Hooksett for high school classes that include more than the 30 students allowed under state regulations.

The superintendent met with school boards in the two towns last week to address the issue. While the contract between the towns and the district requires class sizes to conform to state limits, neither town has provided the formal notice required by the contract with Manchester to start the clock ticking on a 180-day window. During that period, the district would have to either solve the crowding problem or risk having the towns pull their pupils from the district.

Brennan has been instructed by the Board of School Committee to discuss transferring students from Hooksett who attend Manchester High School Central to Manchester High School West, with an enrollment that is 415 students below capacity.

There are 404 Hooksett students at Central and 150 at West.

As of Oct. 1, the Manchester School District enrolled 15,442 students, a decrease of less than 1 percent over last year’s 15,536.

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Bill Smith may be reached at wsmith@unionleader.com.


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