Moose Hill Classroom Plan Settles on Exterior Trailer

The over enrollment drama at the Moose Hill School has reached an end, for now. The School Board reluctantly voted to give the Pre-K through Kindergarten school a trailer to house its growing Friends program for the second half of the year.

“We knew the kids were coming,” said Chairman Dan Lekas in a post-meeting comment. “There was nowhere for them to go.”

The Friends program serves 3- to 5-year olds who have been diagnosed with Autism and have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs.) State law states that the classroom serving those kids can only have up to 12 children. The district began the year with 11 students, but is expecting to have 18 students registered by January, prompting the rush to find more space.

“We’re expanding the program to two sections of Friends, where it now exists as one,” said Superintendent Scott Laliberte.

Currently, the room being used by the Friends is called the “Tiger Room.” It’s a space where the students can have individualized or small group instruction in 30-minute intervals. It’s used throughout the day by not only the Friends program, but by the other students as well. They use it as a space for implementing parts of the kids’ behavior plans, like reward time or for taking space outside the classroom. It is not for full class use, however.

“We have 16 classrooms at Moose Hill,” said Laliberte. “At present time 14 of those 16 classrooms are filled” with students in the morning and afternoon classes, he said.

Because of that, he and the Moose Hill staff have been trying to figure out where the kids in the Friends program should go. The options are “either for that group to take the place of the Tiger Room… or for them to displace what is an existing kindergarten class,” said Laliberte. In that option, the afternoon kindergarten would split up into the other classes, causing some kids to get rescheduled and class sizes to expand from 16 to 19.

He felt it would be an “extremely challenging and traumatic event for children of that age” to change classrooms in the middle of the school year.

The superintendent’s recommendation- have the Tiger Room relocate to a temporary trailer set up outside the existing building.

This was met with a lukewarm response from the board, especially Steve Young who commented that these things don’t happen if you plan.

Kim Carpinone, the director of pupil services explained that the district has a hard time judging the numbers of potential student because some may move into town, but others that already live in town get coded for special needs and thus need services as requested by their IEPs.

Young wanted to clarify that according to the recommendation, “this addition will allow one additional classroom for the Kindergarten SPED program to occupy this area.” He later asked if there were any offices or staff spaces that could be altered instead of buying the trailer. Laliberte explained that the teacher’s breakroom had already been converted into a “reading tutorial space” last summer.

“None of us likes the option of a temporary trailer,” said Laliberte.

The Tiger Room currently serves 21 students with IEPs throughout the day, according to Carpinone. These services are offered five days a week. She also explained that the rule about the maximum class size of 12 is dictated by RSA 186-C, which dictates the state’s implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The board was not happy that they were being, as Young said, “forced into this.”

The trailer to accommodate the expanding Friends program comes with a $11,500 price tag. It will be $6,500 to rent the trailer and $5000 to set it up.

Vicechair Jenn Garem said, “$11,500 doesn’t seem outrageous compared to potentially hurting some kids.”

But Young felt kids would be hurt no matter what. He said the board will have to explain to parents why their 3- to 5-years olds will be “going to exit the building this winter, regardless of temperature or environment. I find that just as harmful… as increasing the class sizes or plopping them into another class.”

Due to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, modular trailers are in short supply. The board needed to make a decision so an 8 x 40 foot trailer could be ordered quickly enough to arrive in time for the new students. It will only be up from December through July of next year.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter