Pelham - Windham News August 12, 2011 - 5
Which Should Be Renovated First? Middle School or Golden Brook?
by Barbara O’Brien No one seems to question the need for additional space in the
Windham School District, but how best to add more classrooms remains a debate among school board members, as well as members of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee. The major problem being discussed is how to come up with a proposal that residents can afford in this roller coaster economy. While school officials haven’t yet come to a consensus on where to begin any renovations, There is no disagreement among them that any plan that would result in a big jump in the tax rate would go down to defeat at the polls. The main problem for the Windham School District is “capacity,” Interim Superintendent Henry LaBranche said. It is capacity that is driving what to do in the near-term, as well as long-term, he said. While LaBranche said he fully understands the implications of the floundering economy, he also stated, “We can’t wait five or 10 years to address the issue.” Windham is currently significantly over the recommended student capacity at all of its facilities with the exception of the new high school, which welcomed students for the first time in September of 2009. “We need to solve the space problem, now,” La Branche emphasized. “We need to keep the process moving forward,” he continued, adding, “I don’t intend to just keep my finger in the dike” to keep the dam from breaking. LaBranche has been involved in working with the Windham
School District for the past four decades. “Each decade presents a different demographic problem,” he noted. And this decade is no different, especially with the unknown impact of the ongoing Interstate 93 expansion. Warren Billings, Windham School District Facilities Coordinator, also emphasized the need to do something in the near future. “We really, really have to add to capacity,” Billings said. The question is whether or not to start with renovating Golden Brook School or to initiate the expansion with Windham Middle School. “None of the buildings are a disaster,” Billings said. “We have kept up with the maintenance.” Golden Brook, however, is the school that is most in need of being renovated and would also cost less to renovate than the Middle School.
In response to a question about possibly demolishing Golden Brook, LaBranche replied, “You just don’t throw away structurally sound buildings.” “Golden Brook is a well-constructed, decent building,” Billing said. “The sky is not falling. While improvements in the alarm system are needed sooner than later, other deficiencies could be dealt with down the road as money allows, Billings explained. Billings also reported that Golden Brook does currently meet all required life and safety codes. School Board member Michelle Farrell questioned the idea of starting with Golden Brook, however, commenting that there “are academic shortfalls” at Windham Middle School that the State Department of Education wants addressed. By starting with Golden Brook, Farrell said, “I feel like we’d just be putting Band-Aids on things at a high cost.
Although the projected cost of the renovations is still being calculated and possibly reduced, the initial estimate was about $26 million for enlarging and renovating Windham Middle School, while the initial calculation for Golden Brook was in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million. “As for getting the bigger bang for the buck,” Architect Lance Whitehead said, the nod goes to Golden Brook School. Golden Brook would be cheaper, he said, because the requirements would be less specialized. Dr. LaBranche said he would prefer to see Windham Middle
School tackled first, as this would solve some instructional issues, as well as add capacity. Vice-Chairman Bruce Anderson said the real question is: What amount of money is sellable to the taxpayers? If the bond for the middle school were to pass this coming March, Anderson said, he feels there would be a very poor chance of a second bond passing for Golden Brook two years later, in 2014. LaBranche indicated that if the Middle School is done first, the renovations at Golden Brook School could wait for another five years. Referring to State Building Aid, which has already been put hold for the next two years, LaBranche said he doesn’t foresee it being reinstated. “If I was a betting man,” he said, “I’d say we’ll never get it back again.” “We’re going to be on our own to get this done,” LaBranche said.
“Putting up a kindergarten addition (at Golden Brook) is the best bang for the buck,” School Board Chairman Ed Gallagher said. Although the $1.9 million dollars in State Aid that was originally anticipated will not be forthcoming, the State has still pledged $1 million toward the kindergarten proposal. The kindergarten addition will help to some extent with the capacity issue, Gallagher noted. “What is the feasibility of getting anything passed next March?” Gallagher wondered. “How do we increase capacity without raising the tax rate,” he asked. That is the dilemma facing school administrators as they struggle with how to best handle the problem. School Board member Jeff Bostic agreed with other board members. “We have to get capacity up post-haste,” he said. “It has to be our number one priority.” Bostic said he would certainly rather build in such a way as to solve the space constraints for the next 20 years, but said he would “settle for five years” in order to reduce the impact on property owners. Bostic added that he is concerned about the potential effects on students on spending years in a school environment where construction is ongoing or certain educational opportunities are lacking. Whichever route school officials choose to take in getting construction underway, be it Windham Middle School or Golden Brook, there will still be an additional need for either the leasing or purchase of portable classrooms for several years to come; an expense which is significant. School board members asked Dr. LaBranche and representatives of LaValle/ Brensinger, the architectural firm handling the facilities master plan development, to further “squeeze” any estimated construction costs for both the Middle School and Golden Brook and to return to a future meeting with the best option to put forward to voters next March.
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Rotary Club Visited by Windham Resident who Volunteered at Tornado-stricken Joplin
submitted by Greater Salem Rotary Club At a recent meeting of the Greater Salem Rotary Club, Alan Daigneault of Windham addressed members on his experience as a Red Cross Volunteer. Retired from Sylvania, Daigneault has since traveled around the country
helping those impacted by natural disasters.
Daigneault spent several weeks on behalf of the Red Cross assisting victims of the devastating tornadoes that impacted Joplin, Missouri in June. He shared this moving experience with members and took questions as well. He was joined at the meeting by Ian Dyar, Emergency Services Director for the NH Red Cross. The Greater Salem Rotary Club is a community service organization dedicated to giving back to
the Salem community by following the Rotary International Motto of “Service Above Self.” Meetings are held each Friday at 7:30 a.m. at the Lou Smith Dining Room at Rockingham Park. Those wishing to obtain more information on the Greater Salem Rotary Club are welcome to contact Club President-Elect Peter Rayno at Enterprise Bank in Salem or Club Secretary Laura Allain at Salem Cooperative Bank in Salem.
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