SMARTR wants school changes on November ballot

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
Situated in an expanding community, Robertson Elementary School is at full capacity and needs immediate attention. File photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
Situated in an expanding community, Robertson Elementary School is at full capacity and needs immediate attention. File photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

SMARTR, a group tasked with making recommendations on improving the town's school system, met for a workshop on Monday, Jan. 7, to prepare for the unveiling of their findings to the Board of Education on Jan. 14, according to Chairman Michael Crockett. SMARTR members have told the BOE in the past that the current educational model in place in Manchester, in which elementary schools are situated within each major neighborhood, needs to be re-examined. Crockett said that SMARTR will suggest an alternate educational model featuring a kindergarten-to-fourth-grade school, a grades five and six academy, and a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school.

Another item SMARTR will recommend is “the potential of having the Cheney building on School Street converted into a fifth-grade and sixth-grade Bennet Academy,” said Crockett. Currently, Bennet Academy is a public school for sixth grade only.

“Also, [we recommend] looking for prices for new or like-new constructions for Washington and Robertson because they are both in need of it, and also they are both at full capacity, and we might need more capacity for those,” said Crockett.

He also said they would recommend the BOE investigate the possibility of a magnet school in town.

The Jan. 14 presentation is a checkpoint for SMARTR, which needs assurance that the BOE is on-board with the direction they are taking. SMARTR will seek direction from the Board of Directors as well. “What we're looking for is to check to make sure both boards are in agreement with where we are and what we're doing,” Crockett said. “We don't want to go further and find out in June that they're not going to support it.”

The group's goal is to have their recommendations placed on the referendum for next November. To do this, they will need the BOE's approval in early June, and the BOD's approval in late June. Their plans will then go to the state in September for approval.

Crockett stresses that these current recommendations are not the entirety of what SMARTR is hoping to accomplish, but rather “the first of many steps.”

“These were the immediate concerns,” said Crockett.


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