Unprecedented Times Call For Unprecedented Measures

Benard: We all know what needs to be done

When Bedford built its own high school, it opened in 2007 with 550 students – freshmen and sophomores that would have been Manchester students.  Bedford grew to an enrollment of 1,250 students, a loss to Manchester.  We left West High alone and did not close any schools.

Auburn voted in 2013 to start sending their high school students to Pinkerton. With approximately 80 students leaving for their freshman year, the loss to Manchester was just over 300 students.

In 2014, Hooksett decided to offer school choice to its high school students.  At the time there were approximately 650 students that eventually chose to go elsewhere.  Still we did not close any schools.  

At that point the MSD was down 2,200 students, with no school closures.  

Candia made the final break from the MSD in 2016, and Manchester lost another 130 high school students.

Over 2,300 have left the Manchester schools from surrounding towns.  

In 2006, records show Manchester’s enrollment at just over 17,100.  Last week, Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt announced an enrollment of 13,000.  We have lost over 4000 students but have not closed a single school.  The time has come to stop the bleeding of the taxpayers.  The time has come to close schools.  The taxpayers cannot afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to update ventilation systems on buildings which are, and have been, at their ‘end of life’ (to borrow a technology term) for quite some time.  

Rather than waste money on yet another Facilities Study to tell us what we already know, just close Central.  The historic buildings do not have to be demolished, but could be put on the market for an investor with the capital necessary to repair and restore the original buildings to their glory.  The taxpayers of Manchester are NOT that investor.  The maintenance costs of that building are the highest in the District.  There is plenty of room for those students at our other three high schools.  Will it be painful?  Yes.  But it has been a long time coming and the taxpayers are slowly dying as we watch the buckets of good money being thrown at a school we all know cannot survive.  Given the current board’s refusal to send students back to school any time soon, they might as well just do it now while families and students are already hurting.  What’s a little more pain?  In the long run, it is definitely the right thing to do.  As more and more Manchester students choose schools outside of the MSD for an education that fits their needs, more school closures will be necessary.  Better to start now.

If anyone is under the illusion that all 564 students (and counting) that have left the District this year will be returning if things ever get back to normal, then it is time for a reality check.  Once students and families find out how much better academic education is at non-District schools, there will be few who will return.  If the new and improved Remote Learning doesn’t live up to the hype, even more parents will seek other options.  

Student Exodus continues

The Manchester School District is definitely at a crossroads. You cannot possibly continue to spend money that you simply do not have.  You must realize that the loss of adequacy funds from the state will cripple you if you do not downsize immediately.  Dr Goldhardt warned about needing a Reduction In Force if things do not change.  Mary Steady warned about the lawsuits and fines for failure to comply with federal and state laws. Please – open your ears and listen to those warnings.  Take immediate action to close at least one school.  Show the taxpayers that you understand the fiscal responsibility with which you have been entrusted.  Manchester cannot afford to make any more mistakes.