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March 04. 2014 8:40PM

Displaced third-graders warmly welcomed by Windham high-schoolers

WINDHAM — The high school experience came somewhat early for four classrooms of third-graders, who arrived in their new digs at Windham High School early Monday morning.

The past month has been a challenging one for the local school district, which is coping with a number of displaced Golden Brook Elementary School students after water and mold damage forced administrators to shutter a portable classroom building housing eight classrooms.

“We’ve made the best out of a very difficult situation,” superintendent Winfried Feneberg said Tuesday afternoon. “The first day went absolutely wonderfully.”

The third-grade classes will be spending the rest of the school year at the high school, while four first-grade classes will be moved to other areas of Golden Brook School, including the art and music rooms and the computer lab.

Though the schools were closed for February vacation last week, dozens of staff members and volunteers were hard at work, moving desks and blackboards into the a section of the district’s preschool, which is housed in an area of the high school that’s separate from the general population.

Feneberg said the third-graders were greeted by waving high school students and their teachers as they exited the bus for the first time.

Once the kids arrived inside, another special surprise was in store: their very own lockers with official “Windham High School Class of 2023” T-shirts tucked inside.

“Almost everyone wanted to wear those shirts right away,” the superintendent said. “The staff thought of absolutely everything to make this a safe and welcoming environment.”

An open house was held at the high school Sunday evening, and school officials said the majority of parents and children opted to attend.

The School Board is deciding on the future of Golden Brook’s portable classrooms, with discussions to continue this week.

School Board chairman Mike Joanis said the board is still unsure whether the structures should be repaired or would best be replaced.

A preliminary needs assessment completed by On-Site Insight, a Boston-based advisory firm on Feb. 24, suggested the modular structure “is approaching the end of its expected useful service life.”

According to the report, which is posted on the district’s website, various major expenditures would be necessary in the near-term to retain the current modular building, including foundation and structural repairs, siding and window replacement and replacement of heating and cooling units.

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