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January 22. 2013 11:40PM

Londonderry High School puts cap on Candia, Hooksett student transfers

As Hooksett students continue to choose Londonderry High School over Manchester, Londonderry has set a cap of 60 on the number of students it will accept from Hooksett and Candia.

And in Manchester, Mayor Ted Gatsas said Hooksett officials should not be giving blanket approval for students who wish to transfer out of the district. About a dozen students sought and were granted transfers by the Hooksett School Board Tuesday night.

"It's a concern. There's no question; they're under a contract," Gatsas said.

After Manchester opened the 2012 school year with dozens of classes over the state-mandated limit of 30 students, Hooksett and Candia - which send their high school students to Manchester - wrote formal letters of concern to the district about overcrowded classrooms.

After months of talks and some reduction in class sizes, Hooksett sent Manchester a letter notifying it that the town considered it to be in breach of contract.

The contract that Hooksett has accused Manchester of violating also requires sending towns to send all "of their public high school students to Manchester high schools with the exception of those who petition a Sending School District ... and are approved for such attendance on a case-by-case basis."

Gatsas said he may request Manchester Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan to get in writing any transfer requests from the Hooksett superintendent.

Meanwhile, Londonderry Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said his district can accept up to 60 students. In November, Greenberg announced that Londonderry would match the tuition rates of nearby districts so parents of transferring students would not have to pay any difference out of their own pockets.

"We believe that we can accommodate 60, maybe a few more, next year without having to increase staff, because our budget is pretty well set at this point in time," Greenberg said.

The 60-student cap is not necessarily permanent, he said.

"Going forward, let's say for the 2014/2015 school year, if we know for sure we're going to have more students coming and there's a guaranteed number, then obviously we can make an adjustment in any budget proposals," Greenberg said.

Dr. Charles Littlefield, superintendent of SAU 15 serving Hooksett, Candia and Auburn, said Tuesday he had not heard of the 60-student cap.

"As far as I know, we have fewer students than that that had sought a Londonderry placement," he said.

There is talk of another cap.

Tuesday night, Manchester's Curriculum and Instruction Committee voted 3-1 to approve a policy setting the maximum enrollment in high school classes at 30. The vote sends the policy to the Coordination Committee.

When asked if the new policy, if instituted, would be a game-changer, Littlefield responded: "At this point in time, I don't know. I haven't seen a policy. I don't know what implementation of that policy would look like. So it's premature to say."

He noted that the policy did seem to "reinforce" state standards.

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Ted Siefer contributed to this report.

bclogston@newstote.com
tsiefer@unionleader.com

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