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Voters to consider future of former Sanborn Regional High School campus

Union Leader Correspondent

February 27. 2017 11:49PM
The old Sanborn Regional High School property in Kingston, formerly known as Sanborn Seminary, remains vacant after a new school opened in 2006. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

KINGSTON — After sitting vacant for the past decade, the future of the former Sanborn Regional High School campus could soon be decided by voters.

Proposed warrant articles on the town of Kingston and Sanborn Regional School District ballots ask voters on March 14 to consider whether they want Kingston and the Sanborn Regional School Board to negotiate the possible sale of some or all of the school property at 178 Main St. to the town.

The proposal by selectmen and the school board is designed to gauge interest in moving forward with a plan for the property, which is located in Kingston’s historic district and the town’s center. The property includes the Victorian Gothic-style Sanborn Seminary building, which was built in 1883 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The future of the property has been uncertain since a new high school was built on Danville Road in 2006.

Kingston and Newton make up the district, but Fremont also helped pay for the new high school and sends its high school students to Sanborn on a tuition basis.

Corey Masson of Newton, school board chairman, said deciding what to do with the property has been a challenge since it became vacant.

At one point, a portion of the campus was home to Seacoast Charter School, but it has since relocated.

“Needless to say there have been multiple attempts by the school board to create subcommittees to work with the trustees of the seminary and the town to come up with a cohesive plan that’s good for the community,” he said.

Debby Powers, chairman of the Kingston Heritage Commission, supports finding a way for the town to take over the property, saying it has history, beauty and potential social and economic benefit to the community.

If voters approve the articles, the issue will be reviewed further. Votes at future town and school meetings would have to be taken before the property, or any part of it, could change hands through a sale or some other agreement.

Powers insists active citizen participation will be critical to the success of the effort.

“Kingston really has an interest in what happens in the center of their town. They would have more reason to invest the time in re-purposing that building,” Powers said.

Powers said the property has become a burden for Newton and that the town wouldn’t see any benefit by keeping it in the school district.

Other warrant articles related to the property are proposed on the school side. One is a citizen-petitioned article supported by the school board and budget committee that asks district voters to spend $167,460 to make improvements to the Swasey Gym and Chase Field House to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The gym is located on the campus of the old high school and is still used by the district, local youth groups and others.

“We want to keep those facilities open,” Masson said, adding that if voters reject the proposal the district may be forced to close them.

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