Future of Manchester’s school facilities crafted at community forums

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Jen Gillis on Oct. 19, 2021. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – This week, the Manchester School District began a series of community listening sessions on the district’s proposed facilities plan.

Beginning on Tuesday morning with a meeting at the YMCA on Stark Street, followed by another meeting later that night at Parker/Varney Elementary School and on Thursday night at McDonough Elementary School, the forums are asking participants for their feedback regarding multiple options discussed within the plan.

At-Large Board of School Committee Member Jim O’Connell was at the YMCA meeting and saw it as a good first step toward a process that will leave a significant mark on the city.

“I was glad to see there were some members of the community here. I hope the community gets more engaged, because this is a very impactful thing for the future of our city, not just the schools, but the entire city,” he said. “I hope people get involved and know that their voice is important and we hear from them. A lot of things will be determined over the next 60 days or by the end of the year that will have an impact on the social and economic fabric of our city, not just our schools.”

New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), a former school board member in Manchester, also saw Tuesday’s event as a good first step and as a significant process toward not just the city’s schools, but economy as well.

“The key is what do we need in Manchester to make us an education center, draw families to come here and remain in public schools, have students remain in the area after they graduate so the economic viability can be maintained,” he said.

Manchester School District Assistant Superintendent Jen Gillis said that the forums will help the decision making process as the district looks to address its current portfolio of school buildings, some of which have gone beyond their projected life expectancy.

“Anytime we can hear community feedback, it gives us something we might not be able to catch. This topic is so broad, we’ve created multiple forums with different community groups, and we need to be with them,” she said.

One more meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Highland Goffe’s Falls Elementary School.