Magnet school program safe, Maple Street building uncertain

ROCHESTER — Discussions over funding for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning work needed at Maple Street Magnet School have thrown the building’s future into question.

The city and school leaders assure the future of the K-5 magnet schools program is not in jeopardy, even as they reject federal funds for HVAC work, and as the city ​​plans to close two more elementary schools as part of a possible consolidation. .

“Nobody wants to scrap the magnet program,” Mayor Paul Callaghan said. “And no decision has been made on the Maple Street location, but if it were to close, the magnet program could be moved elsewhere.”

What is Maple Street Magnet School?

The magnet program is considered a gem in the city. Admission of students is by lottery.

According to their district information, “A magnet school is part of the local public school system. They operate under the same administration and school board. The important point is that magnet schools are schools of choice – children are enrolled based on their interest in school.Although magnet schools may have a general theme, students always study subjects aligned with local, state, or national learning standards (i.e. Core), The more often, magnet schools involve hands-on learning that is research-based and performance-based.”

In Rochester, Magnet School is open 200 days per school year (instead of the 180 required by the state) and it “offers special programs” not available at other schools in the city.

Rochester’s future will likely include school consolidation

Rochester, which has eight public elementary schools, is considering consolidation in the future.

Superintendent Kyle Repucci announced at the Nov. 11 school board meeting that the Rochester School District has been ranked No. 1 on New Hampshire’s list of districts in need of school building assistance – for a project that would build a new elementary school and lead to the consolidation and closure of two elementary schools in the city.

After:Rochester can combine two elementary schools. What to know about why and when.

Rochester’s claim is for more than $20.1 million, or about 60% of the $33.6 million cost. The state legislature must approve the funds before plans can go ahead, a decision that could come next year.

Repucci said two of the city’s elementary schools are likely to be closed and consolidated: Nancy Loud and School Street schools. Both buildings are over 100 years old.

The same goes for the Maple Street Magnet School building.

Why HVAC work at Maple Street Magnet School is important

At the recent board meeting, school board chairman Paul Lynch said the city does not want to approve HVAC work at Maple Street Magnet School. The $91,000 was to be funded through the Federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund.

City Manager Blaine Cox said the federal ESSER fund is administered by the Department of Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides emergency financial assistance to public school districts across the country.

Lynch said the ESSER grant would come with strings attached, one being that the district would have to guarantee the Maple Street building would remain in use as a school for the life of the project, which could be 20 years or more.

“Even at 15 or 20 years, that’s a long commitment, and I think the city council is not willing to do that,” Cox said. “I think they want more options.”

Thus, the School Board is back to square one on the funding of HVAC work. Lynch said the district will not apply for the ESSER grant.

“I plan to review our options with the school board in December,” he said. “We will look at all options and decide how to move forward.”

Callaghan said he and Cox met with Lynch on Monday afternoon.

“(Lynch) told us that the school board would not apply ESSER funds for Maple School because of the conditions attached to the federal funding,” he said. “They will use this grant for other qualified projects.”

Rochester’s future could bring a bigger elementary school

Callaghan said that based on finding the right property, a larger primary school would be financially sound “when you look at it from an economic perspective at scale”.

“If Maple School were one of the schools to be closed, we would suggest that the Magnet program be moved to a newer, improved facility,” Callaghan said. “Maple Street School is over 100 years old and the school board has invested a lot of money in its upkeep over the past few years. It makes financial and practical sense to include more schools in the plan if a larger school can be built. have eight elementary schools right now. Maintaining these eight schools is very expensive. A larger school would provide a better learning environment for the students and our exceptional teachers in the district.

After:The Rochester School District is looking for land for a new elementary school: do you know a location?

Lynch said the magnet program is a big success. He said they would find space elsewhere, if necessary.

Callaghan said a location for a new school must be found before a joint construction committee can be formed to develop the project.

Ryan H. Bowman