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Board of Education Votes to 'Close' Nathan Hale School

Monday's vote clarified the school board's earlier decision to term Nathan Hale Elementary School "offline" for the 2012-13 school year.

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. 

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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. 

Jim August 28, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Highland Park gets a major renovation and Nathan Hale gets closed. Guess which school is in a higher income area? Nathan Hale the soldier only regret was that he had "but one life to give for his country". I guess Nathan Hale the school gave it's life to satisfy the board of education and the town leaders.
Jerry O'Connor August 28, 2012 at 05:43 AM
To Jason Scappaticci: Thank you for your comments and the one rational vote on Nathan Hale School. After all, the BOE should at least hear the SMARTR committee's report before they start to disregard it. To Kelly Luxenberg: This BOE has been keeping the public in the dark about its real motives and making decisions behind closed doors for years. Why would that change now? To Neal Leon: Yes, I’d love to see the Town fix up the Nathan Hale School building and lease it out to a private group to open a charter school to serve the community that the BOE has abandoned. And I also love when BOE members complain about the condition of Nathan Hale School as if they had no responsibility for it. To Chairman Pattacini: Here’s the bottom line, sir. Whether it’s the Town’s responsibility or the BOE’s, the money to deal with the now-empty and useless Nathan Hale School building comes out of the same people’s pockets – the Town’s taxpayers. So don’t expect a lot of praise from us for your so-called “savings” chicanery which is actually just a bit of budget slight-of-hand. (Sort of like not fully finding the self-insurance account.)
Carla August 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Misinformation by reporter. Fifth graders are not at Bennett.
James Bond August 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM
O.K. boys and girls its time to take bets on which school is next on the hit list. My pick is Robertson so the BOE can take the space for themselves. Just pay attention to which school they negelect this time. AND please understand me,its all about negelect. How else does NH get that bad? Negelect,negelect and more negelect!!!
tina bourke August 28, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Additional misinformation by reporter: Merrill Kidd is no longer Republican. She is now Independent... Thank you Kelly Luxenberg and Jason Scappaticci. You will both have my vote!!! I will say also Mrs. Luxenberg your insights and willingness to speak out and openly on how the information and notices were handled so poorly to the public and especially to those directly effected got my attention. I am grateful you were even willing to mention that! Although, the town folks did already come out twice in favor of keeping it open, I imagine they must already feel their voices are not being heard so why bother? I thought it was good to at least have some final decision though. I go back and forth and wonder if this was not strategically finalized NOW because there will be one less thing to distract the voters in November for the library? You really just can't please everyone but I hope this was done with a pure heart? My vote will be for the school repairs anyway!!! Many good memories of my ol school Nathan Hale. I wonder if those of us who attended many years ago can get a final walk through for memories sake? Anyone know how or who to contact on this request.
Tony M August 28, 2012 at 08:28 PM
In the 33 years in taught at the former Bennet Jr. High, Nathan Hale was a great neighborhood school it provided Bennet with many good students. I have seen the neighborhood decline to the point that the School was neglected as well. The late Principal of Nathan Hale, a good friend and former science teacher at Bennet, Leo Diana must be rolling in his grave. Give this school second life, it deserves it.
David Moran (Editor) August 28, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Yes, there were several inaccuracies in this article. They have been corrected. Thank you for pointing them out. Dave M.
M. Troy August 28, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Neglect I have said it before. The town Maint. program has to be gone over. There is no reason that a boiler or roofs should be in this condition. Where are all the maitainance people the town hires to take care of this. When I here you say that downstair classrooms have mold and cannot be used WHOS FAULT IS THAT? And the maint. into the rest of the schools. Manchesters way is just hand out money to the B OE to waste yearly. Please explain why we cannot maintain our schools?
Scott Aiken August 29, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I'm tired of the platitudes from the BOE. I'm tired of the BOE always playing victim to circumstances. This feels like a well planned one-two sucker punch for the East Side Neighborhood. First vote to take the school offline ( I know, I know... they HAD too). then before the school year starts up and the parent network can get back together, and the PTA's can get a head of steam going, quickly vote to close it. Well played BOE, well played. Do not fool yourselves people. This will slowly hollow out the East Side Neighborhood. What's next, Washington? Mark my words, so goes the East and West Side, so goes Manchester.
A Patriot August 29, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Once again the board of Education has misled the people of Manchester. 1st. We are told that the school is being taken offline, when they knew all along that they were going to close this school. 2nd. They then hold a meeting and schedule a vote to close the school at the end of summer when they know that no one will be present at their meeting. ( this is based on their knowledge of attendence at other meetins during this time frame) 3rd Now they say that the town government side has to pay for maintenance and bring it into the 21st century as far as code compliance and accessability wise. This alone will cost tens of millions of dollars. 4th. After this is done, how wonderful of them to decide that they will then take the building back and use it as a place of learning. I hope the BOD members see this for what it is and decide to use for something else once it is turned over to them. 5th. And finally, once again we are being asked as taxpayers to spend 4.9 million of our tax dollars to provide repairs and renovations to our schools because THIS BOE AND PREVIOUS ONES have continually neglected to fund repairs out of their operating budgers, opting to spend monies on Highland Park Market sandwiches at meetings and hiring a public relations manager at over 100K a year. Mr. Aiken, well said, I agree with your statements and will bet that Washington is the next school on the hit list. Mr. O'Connor, your comments were spot on and 100% correct .
A Patriot August 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Mrs Kidd, once again your ranting shows why no political party wants you as a member. You really should stay off the computer during the night time hours. Quite frankly you scare and frighten most grown ups, I can only imagine what school children must feel like when dealing with you.
Joe Grieco August 29, 2012 at 04:01 PM
For all of you who have not been near NH in years, let me add a few comments. First, they definitely had a dedicated teaching staff who always did the best they could. Learning has to have an environment where it can thrive and the people working at NH always tried to overcome the limitations of the physical plant. That being said, NH was physically a disaster waiting to happen. I used to live around the corner from it and brought my daughter to play at the playground just about every night. You could see the cracked foundations from all around the building. The few times I had to go inside (election days) I always noted the poor conditions of the interior, and in November noted the lack of adequate heat even right next to the radiators. Like I said above, learning needs an environment where it can thrive and unfortunately due to the additions/upgrades at MHS and Buckley, the rebuilding at Bennett and Highland Park, and other BoE projects, the money could not be found to replace and upgrade what they had at Hale. So even though Hale may have been a failing school academically, it was a dying school based on its physical plant. The City needs to take advantage of its vacancy to gut and renovate it for its continued use. Oh, and this wasn't too much of a shock to the rest of the school district. All the schools scheduled to receive students have already made needed changes to accommodate them.
John Gardner August 29, 2012 at 05:08 PM
We are right to question what went down at the 8/27/12 BoE meeting. If a meeting agenda is confusing & members are not sure if the process is transparent, no vote should occur and/or people should vote against the motion in order to protect the public. Jason Scappaticci was right to challenge the process by voting no since the SMARTR committee hadn't made a recommendation yet. Nathan Hale students weren't given the benefit of walking into their newly assigned schools before an underhanded & abrupt slide-in to officially close the school happened. The interim super. & principals shoud have met with NH parents about the future of the school and the anticipated timeline first (5 years?). Why such raw action and who thought it would be a good idea to treat families like this? It seems the town and school departments have bailed on any Spruce Street neighborhood revitalization efforts. Neither the town or the school system is applying any brainpower to revitalize that area, even though the town has a planning and development department that could probably lay groundwork. Leadership & vision are needed to make things happen, but there seem to be no advocates in the elected ranks to move forward. Also, any plans to sell off Nathan Hale School by the town are ill-conceived & short-sighted and should be stopped. A plan is needed now. We need to speak up & ask questions.
tina bourke August 29, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I lived in that neighborhood and attended Nathan Hale. I always got along with everyone growing up, moved away and only recently returned to Manchester 3 years ago. I never realized how split the town is on its priorities and how it manifests is disgusting. Nathan Hale may have needed to be closed but we also have one of the lowest scores in the state. Now I believe Merrill Kidd did have a point when she said "things are not right". Especially when you also have a 13.5 million dollar vote for renovating the library on the ballot yet close a school only blocks away....hum something is wrong alright.... And, Tony, Leo Diana may be rolling in his grave but not because of the school closing but because his son, now the mayor, didn't even want to vote in on the ballot the 4.5 million for needed repairs because he felt the library was more a priority. Was very disappointed in that one myself....Reluctantly he did eventually come to his senses.
tina bourke August 29, 2012 at 09:21 PM
oh, on a lighter note, I was happy to see that some of the kids will get the opportunity to go to a brand new school, Highland Park and am excited for them for that.

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