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Mayor Says He Doesn't Support Closing of Waddell Elementary School

Waddell Elementary School. Photo Credit: Patch archives.
Waddell Elementary School. Photo Credit: Patch archives.
You can add Mayor Leo V. Diana to the list of residents who would not support the closing of Waddell Elementary School. 

In response to an email from a resident, Diana said that although he supports the general plan for the future of Manchester public schools presented by the SMARTR Committee he does not support the closing of Waddell Elementary School, which the committee's plan says is an option that would need to be considered as part of it.  

"The recommendation of Waddell closing is not something that I (and other board members) support," Diana answered in an email earlier this week. "I endorse the plan but the details need to be worked out." 

The Board of Education must ultimately decide which, if any, schools to close as part of the reorganization plan, then the Board of Directors most vote to endorse the plan and send it to a referendum where Manchester voters will ultimately decide its fate. Voters will likely vote on three separate components of the overall plan. 

SMARTR's plan would first establish a fifth/sixth grade academy at the site of the current Elisabeth M. Bennet Academy, as well as expand and renovate two existing elementary schools "like new" while closing two others by the year 2020. In total, the projects would cost an estimated $100 million, with Manchester taxpayers responsible for about $40 million of those costs after state reimbursements. 

These projects would begin in the spring of 2014, when the Manchester Board of Directors are expected to send a $17.4 million dollar proposal to combine the existing sixth-grade Bennet Academy with the neighboring Cheney Building to form a fifth and sixth grade academy for the town's public school students. The project is expected to cost Manchester taxpayers about $7 million and is anticipated to appear on a referendum in April of 2014. If approved, the new fifth/sixth grade academy is anticipated to be completed by the summer of 2016. 

From there, the school board would have to decide how to reduce Manchester's public elementary schools from nine to seven between 2016 and 2020, beginning with a "like new" expansion and rebuild of Roberston Elementary School, followed by a similar expansion to either Washington or Verplanck elementary schools (depending on the school board's preference). Both schools would be expanded to house about 530 students to maximize state reimbursement. 

The board of education, according to the SMARTR plan, would then have to decide to close two "surplus" elementary schools in town, with Waddell and whichever of either Washington or Verplanck did not receive the upgrades being the most likely targets. 

Members of the Manchester Board of Education expressed concerns about the proposal at their meeting Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. 

When the Manchester Board of Directors also discussed the matter as part of its monthly meeting on Dec. 10, 2013, most members seemed in support of the plan, although some still had questions and concerns about which elementary schools in town could be slated for closure. 

The Board of Education will hold the first of three planned public forums to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, at Waddell Elementary School. 

Click here to see the SMARTR Committee full proposal. 

What do you think about this proposal? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 
Joyce Hodgson December 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Glad to hear it. Many people purchased their homes in areas where they feel confident of the school and the education and fellowship they and their children receive. Waddell is one of those areas. I just moved to that area because of its stability and sense of diverse families, it would be a shame on so many levels to close it. Thank you Mayor!

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