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February 06. 2014 7:30PM

Building $45.1m school likely to top Newmarket’s agenda


The plan calls for building the new school across from the current school, which was originally constructed in 1925 but has been renovated over the years. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

NEWMARKET — Voters on Saturday will debate a proposal to build a new $45.1 million school to replace the aging Newmarket Junior-Senior High School.

The proposal is expected to generate the most discussion at the school district deliberative session, which begins at 10 a.m. at the junior-senior high school.

The plan calls for the new school to be built across from the current school, which was originally constructed in 1925 but has been expanded and renovated over the years.

School officials say the school, which has a population of 444 students, has numerous fire and life safety issues and its size is inadequate. The building is also expensive to operate, they say, and has aged beyond repair.

“If you’re looking to promote 21st century education, it can’t be done in this building to the capacity that we want to do it,” said Chris Andriski, the school’s principal and a Newmarket resident.

If approved by a 60 percent majority vote, taxpayers would have to raise $1.3 million for the first year’s payment of a 25-year bond.

The new school was proposed after efforts to partner with other local schools failed.

The plan has divided the town, with supporters arguing it’s long overdue and opponents fearing the cost will force some taxpayers out of town.

Those on both sides of the issue spoke out at a recent public hearing.

Resident Paul Dietterle said he feels the cost of the new school, future improvements needed at the elementary school, and additional expenses down the road will “bankrupt” too many residents.

“I’m sorry, it’s just too much money. I think we should support the warrant article that allows you to bring the building up to code. I think we need to move on to doing what we need to do at the elementary school with the consideration of moving some of the sixth-graders back to that school as they were about 10 years ago and unloading the population a little on this school. It’s not perfect. It’s not what we would all like to do, but it’s what our pocketbooks tell us we can do,” he said at the hearing.

Mickey Burns was among the supporters who insisted that now is the time.

He admitted that paying for the school won’t be easy for his family, but he still feels the school must be built.

“Is there any reason to believe that these costs will decrease if we do nothing? Is there any reason to believe that doing nothing means we will pay less in the future for these necessary improvements? Do we think that things will change if we do nothing because my point is there is a time value cost to doing nothing right now, and the best chance to tackle that issue is to do it with the current dollars and with the current plan,” he said.

Others said it was time to stop putting Band-Aids on an old building.

Craig Dionne told residents at the hearing that he believes a new school will ultimately cost less than any other option, whether it be renovating, bringing in portable classrooms or sending students elsewhere.

“A new school will get our kids out of their 1984 Ford Escort and into a more reliable building that is not outdated and not a money pit. A new school will be their vehicle to take them places, not limit their opportunities and truly take them anywhere they want to go,” Dionne said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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