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Photo by Will Wrobel, Telegraph staff.

As of July 1, Merrimack's Academy for Science and Design will be located at 486 Amherst Street, along Route 101A in Nashua. Right now, the building houses Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance, shown above.
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Merrimack charter school expanding to Nashua with more students, staff

It appears Nashua will get its first charter school this year after all.

Weeks after school administration and the Board of Education postponed talks about a district charter school coming to the city, the Academy for Science and Design in Merrimack announced Saturday that its new location would be in Nashua.

As of July 1, the Academy for Science and Design will be located at 486 Amherst St., along Route 101A, said Thomas Frischknecht, chairman of the board for the Academy for Science and Design. The announcement follows months of searching, as the school has planned to expand and accommodate more students.

“We’re really busting out the seams in our present building,” Frischknecht said. “The plan is really to expand with the growth pattern of the school.”

The building is a one-story industrial space with about 70,000 square feet available. It is currently home to defense contractor Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance.

The charter school, which serves grades 6-12, sits on about 24,000 square feet at 316 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack. The new location will be more than twice as large and capable of accommodating school expansions for the next decade, Frischknecht said.

The Academy for Science and Design held its annual lottery last weekend and hopes to increase its enrollment to about 430-450 students next year. There are 285 students currently enrolled, Frischknecht said.

The school also plans to hire 14 additional teachers and two administrators, he said. Right now, the school employs 18 full-time and part-time teachers, as well as seven full-time and part-time administrators. For the 2012-13 school year, the academy plans to boost those numbers to 32 teachers and nine administrators, Frischknecht said.

The board of directors issued a letter to parents Saturday afternoon to inform them of the decision.

The Amherst Street location is about eight to 10 minutes away from the current school building, Frischknecht said. He said he knows the change will be difficult for some parents, especially those in Merrimack or towns farther north, but he stressed the benefits of the move.

“Parents will recognize, either quickly or over time, that this is a move for the better,” he said. “The board believes the students will be positively impacted and have an overall much better educational experience.”

The largest portion of the student population is from Nashua, but Frischknecht said that didn’t have an impact on the decision. The board was looking for a building that fit price and size requirements.

Plus, the Academy for Science and Design houses students from more than 30 districts across New Hampshire, Frischknecht said.

“There’s no way we can please everyone,” he said. “We know for some it means a disruption and for some it means a better situation.”

Frischknecht said the building search committee tried to stay within a five-minute radius of the current school building, but there were no good options in both size and price range.

The new location could affect bus service, but Frischknecht said he and other board members are talking with the Merrimack School District and Nashua bus services to ease that transition.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the new building was “quite an increase” in cost because it’s so much larger, Frischknecht said. He added that the board expects the school’s long-term revenue to increase in the new building.

Frischknecht said the school is contracted to use 50,000 square feet next year and then expand it to 67,000 square feet the following year. The board is still working with Nashua officials to finalize building permits in compliance with safety and fire codes.

Despite changing from an industrial building to a school, the space won’t require many alterations. The new building already has large spaces for labs and offices, which can be easily converted to classrooms, Frischknecht said. It also has four wet labs for science projects, he said, which is an increase from one at the Merrimack facility.

Frischknecht also made a point to thank Nashua’s Tamposi Co., which owns the Amherst Street building.

A charter school “is a different animal for a landlord to accommodate, and they have been very supportive to this project,” he said.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).