Although the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited (SMARTR) committee is still in the midst of formulating its recommendations to the Board of Education, it did appear before the school board as part of its meeting Monday night to give an update on its progress thus far, and noted that it considered the long-term sustainability of the town's neighborhood elementary schools model "questionable."
The is a 13-member committee made up of members of the Board of Education, Board of Directors and members of the general public tasked with developing a long-term sustainability model for the town's public schools and school buildings which has been meeting since mid-April of this year.
Monday, members of the committee appeared before the school board to offer the first update on the group's progress, presenting several findings that it has reached thus far, and also posing several questions to the school board.
"The viability and sustainability of the current neighborhood school concept is questionable," was the committee's first finding.
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Also, the town needs to develop a response to a projected shift in enrollment and that shift's impact on the demands of the school system's current facilities.
And, with more than 900 students who reside in Manchester opting to go to schools outside of the district, either through charter or magnet school programs, a "significant investment" is going to be needed in the town's elementary schools in coming years to help them remain competitive and enticing to young families.
After delivering its report, members of the committee posed several questions to the Board of Education:
What curriculum and instructional considerations should SMARTR committee members be aware of going forward? Are there any plans to close any additional school buildings? Are there any topics the BOE would like the SMARTR committee to investigate? And are their options, such as the opening of a charter school or the reconfiguration of the town's current elementary school system, that the BOE would not support if presented by SMARTR?
"In order to guide our work, it would be helpful to know if there are certain topics on which we should be focused, and other ideas and topics that are not an option," said Jonathan Doucette.
Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini asked the SMARTR committee members to return for the board's next meeting, scheduled for Monday Sept. 24, so that the school board could publicly address the committee's questions.
Sarah Walton, a Democratic member of the school board, encouraged the public to attend the next meeting to offer their input on the process.
For more information on the SMARTR committee, click here.