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July 24. 2013 9:29PM

Unity students will be bused to Claremont

UNITY — Unity School Board members are making plans to bus Unity Elementary School students to Claremont schools as another fall approaches and the building of the new school continues to hit delays.

“We are planning on busing K through fifth grade students to Disnard Elementary School and sixth through eighth students to Claremont Middle School,” Assistant Superintendent Elaine Arbour said Wednesday.

The Unity School District, which is part of SAU #6 that includes the Claremont School District, will fund the slight cost increase of the busing, Arbour said.

Unity students will be taught in their own classrooms by their own teachers, Arbour said.

The angst and concern of some of the Unity parents is understandable, Arbour said, but every effort is being made to minimize the changes for Unity students.

Concerns from parents have centered around “not wanting that level of change for their kids,” she said.

Open houses for Unity families and teachers are being planned at both Claremont schools before school starts, she said. “They’ll get to see their classroom spaces.”

At least one family is opting out until the new school opens, though, Arbour said. “I have been told by one family that they are planning to home school until the new school opens because they don’t want them to go to another district.”

Voters approved a $4.7 million bond to build the new school for Unity children grades K through 8 at an August 2010 special town meeting after state officials ordered Unity Elementary School closed due to numerous unresolved fire and building code violations.

The new school should have been completed and ready for students last fall. But when it wasn’t complete, the state fire marshal’s office and state Department of Education granted a waiver so the old elementary school could be used for another year.

Then, in March, an additional $550,000 bond was approved to fund what architect Scott Vaughan said was unanticipated site work.

Vaughan has managed the entire project.

As the project progressed, additional classrooms and science labs were added and the half-sized middle school gymnasium was increased to a full-sized middle school gymnasium, Vaughn said at town meeting.

When completed the school building would be 34,000 square feet, not the planned 28,000 square feet, he said.

Two weeks ago the state fire marshal’s office halted construction when the next phase of designs had not been approved yet, Arbour said.

Vaughan is using a design/build model, meaning the building is being designed and built in phases, she said.

“The actual construction has gotten ahead of the approved plans,” Arbour said.

The new plans are to be approved in the next few weeks and construction will continue; in the meantime finishing work can be done, but no new construction, she said.

Unity students should be in the new school building by the end of October, she said.

Arbour admitted there have been more delays than typical in a school building project, but said she is confident the building will be completed this fall.

“It has to be open this year. There is not an option,” she said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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