Nathan Hale Elementary School is officially closed.
The Board of Education voted in early February to for the coming school year, because it could not come up with several million in funds needed to make critical repairs to the school's aging boiler and heat piping systems, but some school board members continued to maintain that the community elementary school on Spruce Street would someday be repaired and re-opened.
Monday night, as part of the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting, school board members decided to formally clarify their position on the school's status, ultimately voting 8-1 to formally deem the school "closed" for the foreseeable future.
"It's been brought to my attention and the attention of other board members that it's important for the Board of Education to clarify it's intent regarding Nathan Hale school," Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini said to begin the discussion.
Neal Leon, a Democratic member of the school board, said he supported officially voting to close the school because it gave parents, students and teachers of the former school a degree of closure.
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"I think the term closed gives some finality to parents, teachers and students," Leon said. "…I think there needs to be closure for those students, so they don't think it's one year and I'm going back."
Leon added that, should the school ever be re-opened, he would like to see the school become a magnet school or some sort of regional academy.
"I just don't think it should be a neighborhood school as it has been in the past based on its present condition," Leon said.
Merrill Kidd, an unaffiliated member of the school board, said she was upset that Nathan Hale had to be closed, but she would vote for its closure so the community and Board of Education could focus its efforts on improving the town's remaining schools.
"At this moment we have priority to fix up the schools that are online, so that we never have to vote again to close anything," Kidd said.
Pattacini noted that voting to close Nathan Hale would have an added financial benefit to the school system, as much of the maintenance of the building would then become the responsibility of the town.
"Right now it's a building that we're responsible for, and under an action to close the building at least some of that responsibility would turn back to the town," Pattacini said.
Jason Scappaticci, a Democrat, was the only member of the school board who voted against officially closing Nathan Hale. Scappaticci said he did so because he wanted to hear the recommendation of the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited (SMARTR), a committee made up of members of the Board of Education, Board of Directors and general public that has been appointed to identify long-term repairs and objectives for the school system.
Although Kelly Luxenberg, a Democratic member of the school board, voted in favor of formally closing Nathan Hale, she said she was troubled by the poor notice that the momentus decision received, which did not give residents of the neighborhood that Nathan Hale serviced an opportunity to sound off on the issue.
"I don't think the public was fully aware of what this item meant on the agenda," she said.
For the 2012-13 school year, between four schools in town, Highland Park, Martin, Keeney and Washington elementary schools, while all fifth grade students from last year will become sixth graders at Bennet Academy.
Public schools open in Manchester on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Corrections: An earlier version of this article stated that fifth graders at Nathan Hale would be transferred to Bennet Academy. They will not. Last year's fifth graders at the school will move to Bennet, along with all sixth graders in town.
An earlier version of this article stated that Merrill Kidd was a Republican member of the Board of Education. Kidd is unaffiliated.