Candia, Manchester to try again on school solution
With their first meeting having failed to "produce solutions," the Candia and Manchester school boards will meet publicly for a second time in the hopes of coming to a resolution on the high school issue.
The meeting will be held Dec. 20 in the Health Department building in Manchester. This time, Mayor Gatsas has assured the Candia board that the public will be allowed to speak. At a Nov. 26 meeting, Gatsas motioned to adjourn the meeting without public input, upsetting many in the audience.
The Candia School Board announced the meeting at a public forum Thursday night. Parents and citizens in attendance spoke resoundingly in favor of leaving the city school, with many using the phrase: "the time has come."
"If they're breaching the contract, I want out. It's not good for the kids" said Neil Ragas.
"I feel a sense of urgency, and my child is not going to be in high school for three more years. I lose sleep over this," said Kristen Davis.
Manchester has been at risk of losing Candia and Hooksett students after layoffs resulted in chronic classroom overcrowding this school year. The Hooksett School Board voted Tuesday to notify Manchester of a breach of contract, though the town is still pursing negotiations for an early release from the contract.
In Candia Thursday, board members seemed to agree with some of the comments from the public.
"I want to see things work out with them, but I just don't see it. We have to look out for what's best for our kids ... I love Manchester, and I'd love to see us there, but the thing is, at what cost? Our kids' future? Our kids' education? That's where I'm at," said Candia School Board Chair Deb LeBlond. "I love Manchester, but I love my kids more."
Board members said while no negotiations could occur while they were under contract with Manchester, area school districts have been showing interest in having Candia students attend their schools.
"We're a small community, but we're a pretty awesome community. We're kind of like that cute new girl in town. Everybody's calling us to go to the dance, and for good reason," said Nicole LaFlamme. "We are so focused on education: we've got the best teachers, and so our kids really learn, and they're really well-rounded and have great scores."
LaFlamme also noted that Candia's relatively small number of high school students would make it easier to fit into a new school. Candia has 144 students at Manchester High School Central. Hooksett has 404 students at Central and 150 at Manchester High School West.
The school board urged parents in the audience to attend the Dec. 20 meeting to make their "voices heard." They also charged parents with explaining to other Candia residents the issues with Manchester.
"It has got to come from you, the community," said LaFlamme.
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Brendan Clogston may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.