We don’t know about the students, but the Manchester School Board and district officials have real trouble with numbers. Just over two years ago, they paid an outside consultant to tell them they were going to need more space at the elementary level because those schools were overcrowded. Let’s set aside just what defines “overcrowded” these days. The question is why did it take an outside consultant (and at what cost) to count heads and to determine whether that count would increase or decrease? Doesn’t the district have this information?
No matter. Numbers don’t lie, or so the saying goes, so based on this study the district has undertaken a controversial redistricting effort that includes relocating upper elementary grades to middle schools. That plan hasn’t progressed much due to parental and neighborhood opposition and added costs for middle school fixes.
But hold on, there’s more. The district and school board (with the hapless Mayor Joyce Craig in tow) have since paid for yet another study and this one says that rather than being overcrowded the schools are awash in empty seats, particularly at the elementary level. What you ought to do, advises the new consultant, is close four elementary schools along with Central High School. Think of all you will save in maintenance costs!
We have yet to see the explanation for why the board and district thought another study was needed just two years after the last one. Some board members, perhaps feeling the egg dripping down their faces, are demanding to know where all the missing kids went. We wouldn’t have been surprised if the board ordered pictures of the truants be placed on milk cartons. Instead, Craig and company have given the new consultant two weeks to produce the data that support his conclusions.
Mayor Craig says the maintenance savings on scrapped buildings is “overinflated” because her city doesn’t spend much on maintenance now. She didn’t say that would change; but she had a truly stunning view of the “empty seat” issue. Craig said that this was a result of a deliberate decision to “try to reduce class size and improve educational outcomes for our students.”
Meaning what, exactly? That the “overcrowded” claim in the previous study was a sham and the redistricting exercise a ruse?
Manchester parents and taxpayers have reason to be extremely skeptical of any claims or data coming out of their school district this year. One thing they can count for themselves is the time left before city elections this fall.