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Manchester elementary students may see other schools due to crowding

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 23. 2013 9:39PM

MANCHESTER — Superintendent Debra Livingston has proposed bringing down class sizes in the elementary schools by transferring teachers and students.

At the start of the school year, nearly two dozen classes in kindergarten through grade 5 were overcrowded by state standards, which set a limit of 25 pupils in grades K-2, and 30 students in grades 3 and above.

Livingston on Monday presented a plan to the Board of School Committee that would combine classes with lower enrollments, allowing a teacher to be sent to a school with overcrowded classes to form a new class.

Livingston said parents in certain grade levels were also asked to voluntarily transfer their children to a less crowded school that is in the vicinity. Transportation would be provided to students who transfer to schools 1.4 miles away or further, although Livingston said the priority would be to move students to closer “walkable” school.

“We were able to get the classes where we need them to be by not adding additional employees to the budget,” Livingston told the board Monday.

Livingston said she was still working with parents and principals to finalize the changes, which would take effect next Monday and would bring all elementary school class sizes within the state limits.

Moving forward, she said, elementary school classes would be “capped.”

If more than 25 or 30 students enroll, the “principal will call the district office, and we’ll make the decision where the child will go,” Livingston said. She added that in the case of siblings, all would be given the option of transferring to the same school.

Dozens of classes in the middle and high schools exceed state standards, but the school board considered the elementary school classes a higher priority, and earlier this month it gave Livingston the authority to hire teaches as necessary to bring down the sizes.

Livingston’s plan was well received, although a couple board members questioned specific class adjustments.

“Great job, thank you for the information,” Mayor Ted Gatsas said.

Pointing to the handouts distributed by Livingston, the board’s vice chairman, Dave Gelinas, said, “This is one of the best reports I’ve seen in a while. It’s very innovative.”

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