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Apr 18, 2017 1:42 PM

EDITORIAL: Shut down Manchester West High School and replace it with a drug rehab facility

NH1.com

The Manchester school board has a tough decision to make.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas goes before the board to present his final recommendation for redistricting after listening to parents at several public hearings.

"We're gonna have to make some drastic changes ... everything should be on the table," School Board vice chairman Arthur Beaudry told NH1 News last week.

Manchester taxpayers keep paying for the same number of schools as enrollment rates drop.

West High School for example is operating at just 43 percent capacity. But taxpayers are still paying more than $11 million annually toward operating costs.

How did this happen? In 2007, Bedford students left the Manchester School District when their own high school was finally built, leaving a gap of 800 plus students. And other feeder towns followed that mass exodus. Instead of solving the problem right away, the school board played kick the can, even creating a new tech high school in 2012.

Every time closing a high school is brought up, it gets rejected. Why? It’s emotional.

"Central is the oldest school in the city no one wants to see that school closed. And people on the West Side don't want to see West High School closed even though it's at 40 percent occupancy," Beaudry said. "Everyone is being territorial right now."

Listen up school board members. NH1 is telling you to stop thinking with your hearts and start thinking with your heads. Put on your big kid pants and make financially responsible decisions for the good of Manchester taxpayers. After all, you are elected to make tough decisions for the benefit of their children.

Our suggestion? Shut down West.

Why? West has the lowest high school graduation rate of any of the city's high schools and parents are terrified to send their kids there.

"We live where we live because of the schools they were going to go to and we built relationships," said Amanda Mudgett, Manchester resident. "The West Side makes me nervous, which is why I didn't chose to live on the West Side. I chose to live in the South End. It's just nerve wracking because safety is a big issue because of how the West Side is perceived and is."

Another Southside Middle School parent who did not want to give his name reiterated the choice made to live where he does.

"I personally do not want my kids going to the west side, that's why I bought my house where I bought my house."

Bottom line, the amount of students in Manchester does not support having three, now four, public high schools.

Just over the border, in Lowell, Mass., a comparable city to Manchester, they have one high school with 3,100 students, which is about 1,200 less than Manchester. So NH1 thinks the Queen City can easily split high school students between two schools.

While Beaudry says Central is the school that should be shut for its age, it also has the ability to hold the most students if enrollment numbers were to increase in the future.

Get rid of West. Sell the land. Maybe it could be a rehab facility for drug users.

Its time to rip off this 10-year-old band-aid. Listen to your constituents, Manchester school board, make the right choice. Close West.

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