At MC2

Elizabeth Cardine, lead teacher at Making Community Connections Charter School in Keene, explains a card-making project to student James O’Reilly in this file photo from November 2020.

MANCHESTER — Making Community Connections, a public charter school with campuses in Keene and Manchester, will close the latter campus at the end of the academic year, while the Elm City site will remain open, the school announced Tuesday.

The board of trustees made the decision Monday evening, according to a post on the school’s website. Board member Amanda MacLellan on Tuesday said the school, which is also known as MC2 (pronounced “em-cee-squared,” like Einstein’s energy-mass formula), is committed to maintaining its Keene campus.

“We’ve made this move to consolidate at this time to ensure that the MC2 mission continues to be lived out in the Keene and Monadnock community,” she said. “And we fully intend to continue operating and growing in Keene.”

The board chose to shutter the Manchester campus due to declining enrollment, and the challenges of fundraising in the surrounding area compared to the Monadnock Region, MacLellan said. The Manchester campus has 38 high school students and seven staff members, compared to roughly 65 students and 10 staff in Keene.

The low enrollment at the Manchester campus, which MacLellan said may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, made it clear that “the campus is not financially viable in the future,” she said.

MC2 began as part of the Monadnock Regional School District in the early 2000s and established its Manchester campus in 2012. The Keene campus opened in 2015 in the Center at Colony Mill (formerly known as the Center at Keene).

The MC2 board began considering the consolidation plan at its April 5 meeting, according to MacLellan, who said the choice was a painful one.

“And the decision to close is not a reflection of the resilience, dedication or commitment of the students, families and staff at the Manchester campus, but rather a reflection of the financial realities for charter schools in New Hampshire as a whole,” she said.

The state provides charter schools with $7,188 per student, with the individual schools responsible for raising the remainder of their funds. MacLellan said the state funding is not sufficient to serve high-need students, like some who attend MC2, which seeks to provide an educational environment that meets the needs of each individual student.

Despite the decreased enrollment, this model has worked for MC2 in Manchester, MacLellan added.

“And we have not abandoned the idea of being able to bring that model back. At this time, in the current environment with funding as it is, we’re unable to operate in the greater Manchester community,” she said.

MC2 is working with Manchester staff members on a case-by-case basis to help them transition in their careers as the campus prepares to close. MacLellan said the school sought approval from the N.H. Department of Education to offer Manchester-based students a remote-learning option to continue taking MC2 classes through the Keene campus, but the state denied that request.

The waiver was turned down because the school did not show its approval was necessary in addressing COVID-19 infections, staffing shortages or other unexpected COVID-19 events, according to an April 19 letter to MC2 from the state education department.

“So the distance between the campuses makes [Keene] an unlikely option for the Manchester students,” MacLellan said.

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.