School suit

A judge on Wednesday denied the Monadnock Regional School District’s request to block the Keene School District from changing the schedule at the Cheshire Career Center next fall.

The order comes in a dispute resulting from Keene’s long-discussed plans to shift to later start times at the high school next academic year. The change would affect the schedule of the Cheshire Career Center, which is based at Keene High School but also serves students from Monadnock and the Fall Mountain Regional School District.

Monadnock officials have said the schedule change would prevent their students from meaningfully participating in career center classes because their schedules would no longer line up. They sued Keene last month over the issue. 

Among other things, Monadnock sought a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the change from taking effect in the 2020-21 school year.

But in a nine-page order issued Wednesday, Judge David W. Ruoff of Cheshire County Superior Court found there is no immediate need for an injunction, in part because both school districts have said they will participate in an arbitration process run by the N.H. Department of Education.

“The parties have agreed to arbitration and the NHDOE asserted it would arbitrate this matter expeditiously,” he wrote. “Accordingly, the Court finds that no action is necessary at this time.”

Monadnock had said it needed the injunction to give it certainty as it planned for its 2020-21 school year.

"We are disappointed, and plan to engage fully in arbitration once it is scheduled," Monadnock Superintendent Lisa A. Witte said in an email Wednesday. " ... We remain extremely concerned about the impact the schedule change will have on the ability for Monadnock students to enroll and participate in CCC programs."

The arbitration will involve the two school districts as well as Fall Mountain, according to Robert Malay, superintendent of N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which includes Keene. He said the goal is to have the arbitration this month, though the parties have not yet been able to find a date that works for all three districts.

“The sooner we can get that done, the sooner everyone gets to move forward,” Malay said.

Ruoff's order concerns only the request for a preliminary injunction and does not address the merits of the lawsuit, which accuses Keene of a breach of contract for proceeding with the schedule change without Monadnock's consent.

This article has been updated to include a comment from Lisa Witte.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PCunoBoothKS