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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. 

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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