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February 09. 2013 8:39PM

Windham middle school project supported at school deliberative session

WINDHAM -- A proposed new middle school and upgrades to the high school athletic fields were the topics of much discussion during Windham’s School Deliberative Session on Saturday.<br /><br />
The evening School Deliberative Session at Windham High School had originally been scheduled for Friday evening, but was postponed due to the weekend blizzard. <br /><br />
Saturday morning’s Town Deliberative Session, also at Windham High School, will now take place on Monday evening at 7 p.m.<br /><br />
Around 150 voters attended Saturday night’s meeting. <br /><br />
A $31 million bond item for the construction of a new school for seventh and eighth graders on London Bridge Road and upgrades to the athletic fields at the nearby high school drew much discussion, with many speaking in favor of both projects. <br /><br />
School board member Jerome Rekart noted the strong need for a new middle school. <br /><br />
“Part of what is so appealing about Windham is the proximity to the Seacoast, the mountains and Boston. Our kids are able to play and run…until they get to school,” Rekart said. “The truth is, we have too many kids right now in our seventh and eighth grade classrooms.”<br /><br />
School officials said the district’s current facilities are over capacity by several hundred students and are about 26 classrooms short. The new middle school would accommodate around 500 students and includes 16 regular classrooms, four lab rooms and several other rooms for special education needs.<br /><br />
“There could potentially be another addition needed down the line,” Rekart said.<br /><br />
He added that the upgrades to the high school fields “probably should have been done when we built the high school several years ago.”<br /><br />
Cost estimates for the project total $29.7 million for the new school with the remainder to fund the field improvements, including the addition of multi-purpose turf.<br /><br />
The anticipated tax impact, which will be combined with the existing bond for new Windham High School, would be approximately $4 per thousand in the coming year, with that cost to gradually decrease in years to follow. <br /><br />
If the article passes next month, school officials plan to begin construction on both projects this summer, with the fields completed this fall and the school completed by August 2014.<br /><br />
Resident Dennis Senibaldi asked if the portable classrooms at Golden Brook School were considered in the district’s inventory of classroom space. <br /><br />
He noted that the portable classrooms currently cost the district about $150,000 annually.<br /><br />
School officials said those costs are dwindling since the portable classrooms are part of a lease-to-own agreement and would become district property within two years: the portable structures are to remain in the district’s plan for the time being. <br /><br />
“I do agree we have a problem with capacity,” Senibaldi told the School Board. “But because of the economy, I think we’re going to be back here next year.”<br /><br />
“We’ve probably doubled our population over the past 25 years,” resident Alan Carpenter said. “So yes, it makes sense that we’ll need another building.”<br /><br />
The item was moved forward to the March ballot without amendment.<br /><br />
Voting on all articles will take place on Tuesday, March 12 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Windham High School.<br /><br />
AGuilmet@newstote.com

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