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Hooksett details classroom crowding in letter to Manchester officials

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2013 9:28PM

HOOKSETT - Hopes in Hooksett that a new semester might diminish the overcrowding issue in Manchester schools were quashed when the first of what is to be a bimonthly series of letters written by the Hooksett School District to Manchester on class sizes found 42 classrooms still over state limits at Central High School.

"The Hooksett School Board wishes to convey its continued concern that class sizes exceed state school approval standards," the letter reads. "The board had hoped that with the start of a new semester, this ongoing and serious issue would be addressed. An analysis of the master schedules would indicate that an alarming number of courses remain out of compliance with state standards. As such, the terms and conditions of the High School Maintenance Agreement remain unfulfilled."

It continues: "the Hooksett School Board, once again, requests that this issue be addresses immediately and anxiously awaits a response from Manchester indicating when compliance will be achieved."

The letter, signed by Hooksett School Board Chair Trisha Korkosz, was addressed to Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and the city's Board of School Committee. It was also CC'd to state Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Virginia Barry and Manchester Superintendent Dr. Thomas Brennan.

State standards requires classes to remain under 30 students, and labs under 24, with some exceptions for classes like chorus. According to the report, 42 classes remain over the state-mandated limits at Central High, nine of them labs. At Memorial High School, 37 classes were found to be overcrowded, 14 of which were labs. While Hooksett received a master schedule from West High School, it was limited to teaching assignments and did not indicate class sizes.

Overcrowded classes on the Central lists are predominantly English, lab, and math courses, along with a handful of foreign language, health, and earth science courses.

The Hooksett School Board voted in January to gather bimonthly class size figures from the Manchester School District identifying overcrowded classes and addressing the district's concerns. The board voted in November to formally declare that the city district was in breach of contract with the town, largely over the issue of classroom overcrowding.

SAU 15 Superintendent Dr. Charles P. Littlefield was tasked to solicit and the information, with school board member Michael Dubisz conducting the analysis. This is the first of these letters. Littlefield noted at several meetings in February that he encountered difficulty getting the information.

"I think that since we have filed the breach letter, it's incumbent upon us to follow up and monitor what's going on in Manchester," said school board member David Pearl at the meeting when the letters were voted on.

The board discussed the question of communications with the city district previously at their joint meeting in November. The contract asserts that "copies of all reports, studies and audits relating to Manchester high schools, voluntary or not, shall be forwarded, on receipt by the Manchester School District, to the Superintendents of the Sending Districts."

Another letter sent by the Hooksett board, dated for the following day, also expressed concern with a redistricting plan which has been approved by a pair of committees which would result in the closing of Manchester High School West. The town, referencing a section of its contract with Manchester indicating Hooksett is "entitled to have 250 students attend Manchester High School West," characterized the plan in its letter as "a potential violation of the High School Maintenance Agreement."

The plan has yet to go before the full Manchester Board of School Committee.

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