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No easy decisions for finding space for all day kindergarten

Decision on Marston School needs to be made

March 19, 2014
BERLIN – It doesn't seem as though there will be any easy answer to the question of how to accommodate all-day kindergarten in the Berlin schools.

At present, every room and every nook and cranny are already being used. Facilities and specials (music, art, etc.) are already being shared by at least two schools and there's no way either the Brown or Hillside Schools could be expanded.

Then there's that "dark horse", the Marston School, about which a decision regarding its ultimate future needs to be make. Although it did house kindergarten a few years ago, at present it houses only special education offices. To be used as a school again would require major renovations and being brought up to code.

The school board met with the city council last week on the school budget and although the board brought up issues of the Marston School and all-day kindergarten, no decisions were made.

The topic of all-day kindergarten was raised at an earlier school board meeting. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible because the testing that goes with the common core curriculum, adopted by the state, assumes all-day kindergarten, during which particular skills are taught.

At that earlier meeting, it was decided to convene a committee with representation from every grade level to discuss options.

At the last school board meeting the report came back with five possibilities, none of them without a myriad of problems.

Three of the five were eliminated fairly quickly.

Tuition and move kindergarten to St. Michael's School, which is empty, was eliminated when Chairman Nicole Plourde, who works for NH Catholic Charities, said that building was not available.

Tuition and move kindergarten to White Mountain Community College doesn't appear to be an option either. Board member Lynn Moore, who works there didn't know if there was room, but noted it's a public building with no locks, and anyone could come in.

Moving kindergarten to the high school might be possible, but there were a number of problems with scheduling lunch, the size of the furniture at the high school, no playground, etc.

The two options left were to reorganize grades, with Brown being kindergarten and first grade, and Hillside grades 2-5, or modulars at the Brown School.

Brown Principal Amy Huter said she preferred the second, but Hillside Principal Julie King said that was just moving space problems from one building to another.

King said the district really needed to start looking at a new school, but Plourde said the money for that just wasn't there and the issue can't wait.

King and Middle School Principal Dan Record noted the two schools already share a lunchroom, gym, library and many specialists. They were concerned about being able to schedule yet another grade in those shared facilities.

There might be classroom space, however, if the superintendent's office were moved to the Marston School with the special education office.

That suggestion brought up the whole issue of the Marston School and what it could be used for. There are plans on file for a second story walkway that could connect Marston to the other schools.

The option regarding a modular at Brown School had suggested putting the library and storage there, but that would only make one more classroom available and two are needed.

Two-room, or even four-room modulars, are available, but would they fit in the space available. There were also issues regarding the scheduling of lunches, gym and specialty times.

One suggestion made, rippling one grade up, which would mean the eighth grade would go to the high school, was thrown out early by the committee, Superintendent Corinne Cascadden noted.

The board asked Cascadden to get some cost figures on modules and after that the committee will get back together and see if it can come up with a recommendation.

"Somewhere we're going to have to take a hit and get it done," board member Don Lebrecque said, referring to the fact that none of the options are without problems.

"No matter what, it's going to cost us money," Plourde added.

"Someone has to pick the best, then deal with the issues," board member Louise Valliere said.

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