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$18M expansion planned for White Mountain Regional School District career-technical center

Special to the Union Leader

January 12. 2014 7:56PM

WHITEFIELD — Residents of the White Mountain Regional School District will vote in March on a bond to construct a new Career Technical Education Center.

Plans include new space for existing and new CTE programs and a biomass plant, and the vacated space in the high school will provide space for more classrooms and athletic practice space.

Between now and March, school officials will be working to inform voters what the proposal entails. A bond hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, and they hope the second time will be the charm for this project.

In the past, every CTE construction or renovation project has been able to get 75 percent state aid, Superintendent Harry Fensom said. In past years, there was also an additional 25 percent general building aid to offset non-CTE renovations.

Last year, when this project came up for a vote, it was unclear whether both of these funding sources would be available.

“That made the warrant article dealing with the CTE project confusing,” Fensom said. “When people are confused, they generally vote no.”

A second warrant article dealing with renovations to the high school got the 60 percent required for approval, but the CTE warrant article only got 56 percent. The two projects were connected, so the high school renovations couldn’t go forward.

This year it’s clear the 75 percent state aid is available. It’s in the state budget earmarked for the WMRHS project. But the 25 percent general building aid is not.

The entire cost of the project is $18,073,862. Of that, $13.5 million will be covered by state aid, leaving $4,573,862 to be bonded locally.

The CTE addition to the existing building would be about 70,000 square feet. Approximately 2,000 square feet of space would be used for the proposed biomass plant and storage building.

The biomass plant costs are covered by the 75 percent state aid. It would heat the existing school and the addition and is estimated to save the district about $61,000 in fuel costs a year. The district is also looking into grants that would further offset the costs of this part of the project.

Also included in the plans are a water cistern and pump to provide water for a sprinkler system for the addition and possibly the existing school building.

The current CTE facility was built in 1984, according to Director Lisa Perras. Most of the CTE programs are taught in this wing, but some are in the 1966 portion of the high school.

There have been no upgrades in either space or technology relating to the CTE programs since 1985, according the website on the project.

The new CTE Center would be well-used by students. Of the 2013 graduating class, 47 percent completed the two-year program of studies in one of the 12 areas offered. The 2012 class also had a close to 50 percent participation rate.

This fall, all freshmen were introduced to CTE courses and career paths through a 12-day program.

The towns of Whitefield, Lancaster, Jefferson, Dalton and Carroll make up the WMRS district. But because CTE centers are regional, the towns of Groveton, Stratford, Littleton, Lin-Wood, Lisbon and Profile also send students to Whitefield.

Perras said if the new center is approved, a new two-year welding program would start next fall.

The hospitality program would be upgraded to include an up-to-date kitchen that would allow them to host paying business functions, giving student real-world experience.

Two new two-year programs being considered are: cosmetology/spa management and biotechnology. They would not start until 2015-16.

It isn’t just the CTE programs that would benefit. About 7,000 square feet in the existing building would be vacated. There are five teachers who move from room to room with carts who would be provided permanent classroom space.

If approved, construction would begin in July 2014 and the building would be ready to occupy in September 2015.

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