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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nashua school district reopens alternative school in Merrimack

MERRIMACK – Nashua district administrators revived the Brentwood alternative high school just in time for students’ return.

Now known as The Nashua Program at Brentwood, the facility opened its doors Tuesday along with the rest of the city’s schools. ...

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MERRIMACK – Nashua district administrators revived the Brentwood alternative high school just in time for students’ return.

Now known as The Nashua Program at Brentwood, the facility opened its doors Tuesday along with the rest of the city’s schools.

“This is the quickest I’ve seen a program ever come together. If we didn’t have the facility, we might not have done so because of renovations and approvals,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad.

Previously run by Bedford-based education agency SERESC, the intensive-needs program closed abruptly last spring due to funding issues. That gave administrators just a few months to develop a program through the district, or find out-of-district placements for the students who had intended to enroll at Brentwood this fall.

Conrad said they had to move fast to get a replacement program ready in time.

“We had a very strong program last year, we’re pleased to bring the program back,” Conrad said.

Director of Special Education Jan Martin and Ellen Greenberg, the out-of-district transition facilitator, worked quickly to prepare the program and post positions for new staff, Conrad said.

Located on the Merrimack High School campus, the facility needed little improvement to prepare for the new academic year. Because it is being used for the same purpose, the district was able to skip time-consuming steps such as major renovations, although some minor work was done.

“We replaced some old carpet in classrooms with tile floors. The building was really in good condition when we found it,” said Conrad.

Aside from housing the program in the same building, Nashua was also able to find continuity in staffing.

“We have a fully hired staff, they have been meeting over the course of last week. Many were employed through SERESC last year, so they will be familiar with the program and students,” said Conrad. He said leftover supplies from last year, including computers, will be used this year as well.

The program’s capacity is 16 students, although 10 are enrolled so far.

“We’ll open the doors with 10 students, but we’re expecting more. We’ve had requests from other districts about placements ... they wanted to wait and see where the program was going,” Conrad said. Because the program serves students with intensive needs, placement is not restricted to the beginning of the year. Any time a student is identified as a good match for Brentwood, they could potentially join the school.

Now that Brentwood is reopened for this year, Conrad said they have time to plan for the program’s future.

“We have time to think strategically,” he said. At the close of this academic year, Conrad said the district aims to relocate the school to Nashua.

“Moving forward, it will shift to Nashua. We expect staff to be coming with us to Nashua. They know it’s a one-year deal in Merrimack,” he said.

The Brentwood School had been operating as an alternative high school in Merrimack since 1981.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).