October 18, 2007

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Publisher's Note: School debate
By Jody Reese

A battle over public school buildings is shaping up in Concord that will likely play out throughout southern New Hampshire.

In Concord, the school board has decided to consolidate some elementary schools and may close some older ones. Those built before 1935 could be torn down to make way for new ones. Preservationists are concerned.

The problem is central to efforts to modernize, make schools safer and respond to the changing number of students. Put bluntly, school boards don’t have the money to educate kids and preserve aging buildings. Nor should they. School boards should focus on education, not preservation.

That said, these buildings are important parts of the community and shouldn’t be cast aside just because they can no longer house children. There are other options.

Perhaps community leaders can reach a compromise that will keep the buildings and allow the school board to build or expand new schools to accommodate changing needs.

One idea could be to convert the schools into apartments or condominiums. In Manchester and elsewhere, older schools have successfully been turned into housing for low-income senior citizens. Some have been sold privately and rented out as apartments.

Though it might be easier to get government money to convert the schools to elderly housing or for working families, Concord should strongly consider the private option. Turning the schools into apartments or condos would help the city attract more young professionals. Concord, like many other southern New Hampshire towns, needs to attract young workers or it risks losing more business to other cities outside the state.

By working with private developers Concord might be able to accomplish two key tasks, keeping and attracting younger workers and preserving these older schools.

Recycle this
Manchester city government had a sweet deal. Corcoran Environmental Services was going to pay the city rent and share money it earned from its recycling operations. But after West Side residents complained that they didn’t want the extra traffic, city government, led by Mayor Frank Guinta, scuttled the deal. Now Corcoran is without a home and could easily find another town to give millions of dollars to each year.

That’s a story?
The Union Leader is joining the cable news networks in creating its own news and that’s bad news for New Hampshire journalism.

This Sunday, the Union Leader led its front page with a story about its own online survey about how immigration — mostly from Massachusetts — is ruining New Hampshire. Put aside for a moment that “people from Massachusetts” is common code for blacks and Latinos; the story was entirely self-created and offers no insight into how New Hampshire residents actually feel about these newcomers — the survey only offers a glimpse into the thoughts of people who visit the Union Leader Web site, and is that really news?