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Candia, Manchester school boards meeting to focus on overcrowding issues

Union Leader Correspondent

November 18. 2012 9:06PM

The Candia School Board and the Manchester Board of School Committee will hold a joint public meeting on Nov. 26, at which the town expects to be updated on the budget and overcrowding issues the city's schools have endured this year, and which has caused alarm in towns such as Candia that send students to Manchester high schools.

"From the Candia School Board's perspective, we're a group of five individuals who were elected by the community to focus on education and providing the best education to our students," said Candia School Board Vice Chair Nicole LaFlamme. "So it's going to be a very interesting meeting, and I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say. . We're looking forward to sitting down with the Manchester board to focus on education."

Manchester has been struggling to keep its sending schools, which include Candia, Hooksett and, until recently, Auburn, as budget shortfalls leave classroom sizes bloated, with some classes of over 40 students at the beginning of the year, and textbooks and supplies scarce.

The meeting between Candia and Manchester will be held in the Manchester Department of Health building at 1528 Elm St. at 7 p.m. The Candia board had initially requested the meeting be held at the Henry W. Moore School in Candia, where the board holds its regular meetings, but Manchester declined, offering the Health Department instead as "neutral ground."

Manchester attempted a similar move for its Nov. 15 meeting with the Hooksett School Board, but eventually caved to pressure from the town board, which continually refused Manchester venues, and both bodies met at Cawley Middle School in Hooksett.

Despite the drive, however, the Candia School Board is hoping that residents will turn out for the discussion.

"This high school situation affects all Candia community members. It doesn't affect only parents," said LaFlamme. "We'd love to see a lot of our community members come to this meeting."

The Candia School Board's next regularly scheduled meeting is on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Henry W. Moore School at 6 p.m. The board will host a High School Forum at 7 p.m. that same day, at which the Manchester issue will be discussed.

"By then," said LaFlamme, "we'll be able to give even more of an update to our community members."

The Town of Auburn agreed in July to pay $1.2 million to be released from its contract with Manchester. Auburn will begin sending its students to Pinkerton Academy in Derry in 2013, allowing students who already attend Manchester high schools to finish in the city if they wish.

The Hooksett School Board voted in October to begin negotiations with Manchester for an early release from its contract, which expires in 2023. There have also been informal talk in Hooksett of pushing for breach of contract status, but no official actions have been taken in that regard.

Some of the more egregious issues have been curtailed since the beginning of the school year, but according to Manchester Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan, approximately 56 classrooms at Manchester High School Central had 31 to 35 students as of Nov. 15. The maximum size allowed by the state is 30.

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