For 50 of the past 60 years, I have entered a school building in late August or early September to begin a new school year either as a student or teacher/counselor. As I walked around the grounds at Bennet Academy trying to find the Board of Education meeting I was most impressed with it’s security. I couldn’t get in to the meeting or even find it because I parked in the back lot and signs directed me to locked gates that kept me from the front door. A nice young man who was supervising pickle ball and is a UConn student helped me find the meeting.
During the meeting, I listened to the Bennet administrators talk about the dedication and hard work of the staff. Helping 10 year olds from 7 different elementary schools adjust to a huge new building and the middle school schedule and opening lockers was a challenge. I heard about the entire staff, half of whom are new to the school, getting acclimated to a school that now housed 950 students from last year’s 400. I heard of suggestions to make changes for next year to introduce this year’s 4th graders to Bennett in the spring or over the summer. I could picture all of the pace and the confusion and the patience needed and felt exhausted for the teachers. I was glad that I did not have to participate in the frenzy.
The meeting was short or it was for me since I arrived late. Most items on the agenda had been covered. I would have liked to have had a tour of the building.
Am I smarter too?
I spent Tuesday of this week learning a little about the Manchester Public Schools. I attended two meetings about the schools so there will be two posts. I have not kept up with the school happenings in Manchester the way I did in Hartford while working for the Hartford Public Schools. So, I have spent the past few days taking pictures and doing a little research online.
On Tuesday afternoon, the senior center staff hosted a discussion about the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited – Phase 2 or SMARTR2. It is interesting to attend a meeting with people who have lived in town for a long time. One attendee talked about the benefits of this type of presentation and discussion in a transparent and inclusive democracy. He reminded us that schools have closed in the past and he remembered one year when five schools closed. Most have been put to good use. That is why I drove around and took pictures. I used the Manchester Historical Society website to learn more about previous school buildings in town.
The meeting was attended by less than a dozen seniors,. There were also school administrators and some members of the board of education and board of directors present. Matt Geary, superintendent of schools, presented a powerpoint on SMARTR2 and then there was time for questions and comments from the audience. There was a tremendous amount of information in a fast moving presentation. In addition to the history lesson on previous school closings an audience member stressed that design for net zero energy use is the best way to go. Another person reminded Matt Geary that we not only have the best students in Manchester we all have the best teachers and school staff.
Phase 1 of SMARTR has begun and included the following:
- Grade 5 students moving to a brand new Bennet Academy
- Waddell School renovation
- Verplanck School renovation
- Close Washington School
- Close Robertson School
There are five additional elementary schools in Manchester. A decision needs to be made on renovating and/or closing some of the remaining schools keeping in mind the plan strives to:
- Meet state requirements for racial balance
- Address aging and inefficient buildings
- Achieve socio-economic balance
- Achieve parity of facilities and school size
- Maximize state reimbursement
- Keep neighborhood structure
I will not go into detail here about the options. It is better if people attend a meeting and ask questions. As we all learned in school, the more citizens participate the closer we come to a true participatory democracy. You will be impacted by the final decision whether you have children in school or not. Please consider attending one of the following meetings:
- Oct 15 at 6:30 p.m. Martin Elementary School PTA, 140 Dartmouth Rd
- Oct 16 at 6:30 p.m. EastSide Neighborhood Resource Center, 153 Spruce St
- Nov 8 at 6:30 p.m. Buckley Elementary School PTA, 250 Vernon St
- Nov 13 at 6:00 p.m. Keeney Elementary School PTA, 179 Keeney St
- Nov 15 at 6:30 p.m. Bowers Elementary School PTA, 141 Princeton St
- Nov 27 at 6:00 p.m. Waddell Elementary School PTA, 163 Broad Street
- Nov 28 at 8:00 a.m. Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 20 Hartford Road