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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Science supplies for Nashua’s younger grades would be centralized under proposal

NASHUA – The district’s procedure for purchasing and utilizing science supplies could look very different in future years, after the Board of Education OK’d a proposal of the district and the Nashua Education Foundation to create a K-5 science resource center in the city.

The resource center would be fully funded in its first year by the foundation, with ongoing costs funded by the district in years to come, according to the proposal provided to board members Tuesday. ...

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NASHUA – The district’s procedure for purchasing and utilizing science supplies could look very different in future years, after the Board of Education OK’d a proposal of the district and the Nashua Education Foundation to create a K-5 science resource center in the city.

The resource center would be fully funded in its first year by the foundation, with ongoing costs funded by the district in years to come, according to the proposal provided to board members Tuesday.

Board members had plenty of questions about the proposal, which would centralize the purchasing and managing of science supplies for elementary schools, but shared support for the idea.

“This sounds like a wonderful supplement to our science programs,” said board member Steven Haas.

Superintendent Mark Conrad told board members that the district has worked hard in recent years to implement hands-on, inquiry-based science curriculums in the Gate City’s elementary schools. With those hands-on lessons, however, comes the need for more supplies – from potting soil and seeds to rocks and gems and magnifying glasses.

Trying to manage and replenish these supplies at each of the 12 elementary schools can be costly and disorganized, Conrad said, leaving some classrooms with missing items and making it hard for teachers to properly conduct lessons.

So, when the Nashua Education Foundation – a nonprofit organization that has provided more than $13,000 in small grants to local teachers over the past few years – came to the district with the desire to fund a larger, districtwide project, Conrad said the creation of a resource center seemed like a natural fit.

The proposal would cost about $72,000 in the center’s first year, including about $47,000 in ongoing costs.

The center would be staffed by a science paraeducator, who would be paid about $23,000 annually, including salary and benefits. Volunteers also would be enlisted to help with the center’s management.

About $24,000 a year will go toward science supplies that require replenishment, such as soil and seeds, chemicals for labs and other items. An additional $5,000 is requested in the first year to begin building an inventory of such supplies.

The district’s proposal also requests another $20,000 in one-time costs for shelving, storage cabinets and other containers, to store supplies and equipment and distribute goods to schools.

If the proposal comes to fruition, all science materials for elementary schools would be stored at a resource center within the district. The exact location of the center has to be determined, Conrad said.

Supplies would be bought in bulk, saving money, and be requested by teachers and staff as needed. All deliveries of materials would be provided by a staff member who already makes deliveries between schools and the central office at no additional cost.

Board members said they thought the idea would make it easier for teachers to have the supplies they need when they need it.

“I’m sure there’s lots of questions we can come up with, and some long-term budgetary risks, but I think this is an interesting concept that could really help,” said board member Thomas Vaughn. “I think it could potentially make a more efficient usage of resources, and I really do think this could provide more uniform set of resources across the district … I think we should pursue it.”

Mary Jordan, president of the Nashua Education Foundation, said the foundation will now begin looking for donors for the proposal, and said she has had interest from businesses and community members looking to help fund a districtwide initiative. Depending on funding in the future, the resource center could be expanded to serve middle and high school science classes.

Once funding is found, and details of the center finalized, the proposal will come back to the board for final approval.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).