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City school tours: Proceed with caution

Last week there was a minor political controversy about Manchester elected officials organizing parental tours of the local public schools. It's funny how politics can mess up a good idea.

School board member John Avard and Alderman Patrick Arnold organized tours of Gossler Park Elementary, Northwest Elementary and Parker-Varney Elementary. They are to take place on Thursday, Nov. 29. Mayor Ted Gatsas and four other school board members objected to these politician-led tours.

Though parents ought to have access to the schools, Gatsas said, he was concerned about classroom disruptions and child safety. Having politicians lead groups of parents through the schools while they are in session was a bad idea, he said. The school board voted 7-5 to approve the tours anyway.

Avard and Arnold might have the kernel of a good idea, but Gatsas' concerns are valid. A better way to get parents involved would be to schedule more open houses.

It is much more informative for parents and school staff members if parents can tour facilities while teachers and administrators are available to answer questions.

That also would prevent the tours from becoming distractions for students and teachers.

The public schools belong to the people, and they ought to be accessible. But for obvious reasons, trotting large groups through the schools while they are in session is problematic. The board ought to work with the district to add another open house or two to the calendar. And if school board members want to bring parents through the schools, they ought to be able to do that, but only in small groups that won't disrupt classes or pose safety concerns for students.

Eric Church
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