EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

June 9, 2014

Haverhill voters decide tomorrow on new school

Building would replace deteriorated Hunking School in Haverhill

HAVERHILL — In late 2011, the city closed half of Hunking Middle School due to fears a portion of the building could collapse due to structural problems.

About 150 students were bused to a then-closed school on the other side of the Merrimack River. Temporary repairs were made and the students were eventually moved back to Hunking. The deteriorated building is expected to be usable for only two or three more years.

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls to consider a permanent fix for a problem that has hung over the heads of students and parents for almost three years. Concerns about air quality at Hunking go back much further.

Voters will be asked to pass a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion that would allow the city to temporarily increase property taxes to raise Haverhill’s $21 million share of building a $61.5 million school. The state School Building Authority Board voted Thursday to contribute $40 million for the project — $3 million more than the city originally expected.

The proposed school for up to 1,005 students in kindergarten to grade eight is to be built next to the existing building in the city’s Bradford section. If the debt exclusion passes, construction is set to begin in the spring and new school would open two years later.

“We’re excited and nervous, but we feel good that people understand how important this is for the whole city, not just Bradford,” said Karen Pugh, one of the leaders of the Haverhill For Hunking group that has been campaigning for the new school for months.

Pugh said dozens of parents, grandparents, business owners and other residents began their final push over the weekend and will continue knocking on doors, holding signs on street corners and making phone calls until the polls close tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the project would add about $71 per year for 20 years to the average property tax bill. But he said tax bills won’t increase because an old debt exclusion for two schools built many years ago will expire around the same time the city would start paying the new Hunking loan.

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