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Staff photo by DON HIMSEL

The Academy for Science and Design in Merrimack is shown Friday.
Friday, April 13, 2012

Academy for Science and Design in Merrimack gears up for student lottery

MERRIMACK – The Academy for Science and Design will select its next class of students Saturday by lottery. But, at least 35 new students already have learned their fate.

Those who were blocked wrongly last year from the admissions lottery were guaranteed entrance to the charter school, which offers an advanced math, science and design curriculum to students grades 6-12.

State regulations require that all applicants be included in the lottery and given a chance at admission, but 68 students were informed last year that they weren’t eligible because they didn’t meet scoring requirements on a math placement exam.

As a remedy, school administrators instituted a new admissions policy, headed by a new committee, and they offered guaranteed entrance to the affected students. So far, 35 have enrolled, according to Thomas Frischknecht, chairman of the school’s board of directors.

“The problem that we had last year was based on human error, really,” Frischknecht said this week. “Basically, one of the people in charge of admissions … wasn’t following all the way through contacting parents whose child was scoring less than 70 percent in the placement test.”

“It’s sad, but it was an individual who was worried about confrontation with parents,” he said. “It created a whole problem out of it.”

The admissions supervisor, Mary Mattingly, is no longer in that position at the school.

In addition to the 35 entries, the lottery, required by the state Department of Education, could bring as many as 120 new students to the school out of a field of 200 applicants, Frischknecht said.

Currently, the school, located on Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack, serves 285 students from across the region. But, administrators are in the process of securing a new location that could accommodate more students.

Frischknecht declined to reveal the exact location because of ongoing lease negotiations, but if the move goes through, the school will remain within 10 miles of its current location, just across from Willow Lane.

“We’re getting bombarded with questions (about the location),” Frischknecht said. “It’s understandable. For some people, this will have a big impact.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to all this, but at the same time, we cannot jeopardize the lease negotiation.”

In total, the school’s charter allows as many as 450 students. If the move goes through, the school could host as many as 420 students next year, its largest student population since it opened in 2007.

“We’re continuing to grow,” Frischknecht said. “We’ve pretty much doubled in size every year, and we’re looking to grow more this year. But, I can’t stress it more, it all depends on the new facility.”

The lottery will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the current school building at 316 Daniel Webster Highway.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or