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Deliberations resume for alternative high school funding in Nashua

Union Leader Correspondent

March 14. 2017 6:57PM

NASHUA — School officials will continue reviewing the superintendent’s proposed $106 million budget today, including whether to restore funding for Clearway Alternative High School.

In Superintendent Connie Brown’s most updated budget, she is recommending that instead of providing the full $600,000 budget for the Clearway school, that $300,000 be set aside for Clearway and the remaining $300,000 be utilized for a new, W.I.N. program that would be similar to Clearway but operate within Nashua High School South.

Several parents and students are voicing concerns about the new proposal, maintaining the success of Clearway is due to its segregation from the larger, traditional high school.

Clearway offers students who suffer from anxiety, truancy and other issues a safe environment with smaller class sizes to help them thrive and graduate.

Converting from class sizes of 8 to 10 students to possibly 15 pupils will “shoehorn” students into the high school and set them up for failure, according to Steven Haas, former school board member.

“These students will not survive in that environment,” Haas said of the Clearway students. The goal of the alternative high school is to keep students in school, provide them with support services, prepare them for the workforce and increase basic life-coping skills, said Haas, adding funding is necessary to keep the program alive.

There are currently about 60 students attending Clearway, with an average 85 percent graduation rate. Under the new proposal, Clearway would educate about 25 students, and the new W.I.N program at Nashua High School South would provide services for up to 60 students.

Mike Fredericksen, interim assistant superintendent, said the new proposal would offer Nashua students two programs for the price of one, and it would provide families with a choice for their child’s education.

Brown told school officials last week that upper-classmen at Clearway would likely remain at the facility at 40 Arlington St., and that new enrollees would be considered for the W.I.N. program, although that will be determined on an individual basis.

“Everything that Clearway offered was what my son needed. I can’t stress enough how it has made my children happy to go to school,” said Michelle Flynn-Godfroy, who has two children attending the alternative high school.

If they must go back to a traditional high school — even if it is the W.I.N program — she said it would be detrimental to them and they might ultimately quit.

Doris Hohensee, school board member, requested that the full $600,000 budget for Clearway be restored into the proposed budget, but her motion was tabled until more information can be shared with school officials.

“Clearway, an alternative high school run by the Adult Learning Center, has been effective in educating kids who thrive in a smaller high school environment,” said Mayor Jim Donchess, stressing the program helps ensure that all children reach their full potential.

The budget committee will resume discussions about the budget, including Clearway funding, at a 6:30 p.m. meeting tonight at Nashua High School North.

Education Nashua Local and County Government