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January 10, 2014

Windham School Board won't push middle school project

WINDHAM — School officials won’t push a middle school project to voters this year.

After getting a look at the latest, $16 million proposal this week, the School Board decided more time for review is needed.

School officials expressed concern about a potential lack of community support for the project.

Voters in successive years have rejected design fees for a middle school and also a $30 million middle school project.

School Board member Michelle Farrell told colleagues she hasn’t received even one call asking for a middle school.

Chairman Mike Joanis said he has heard from residents who opposed a middle school project during the board’s discussion Tuesday night.

“I got six texts during the meeting saying, ‘Don’t you dare put that on the ballot,’” Joanis told the board.

Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said voters spoke decisively last year.

He said a missing, crucial ingredient is an intensity within the community to solve the school crowding problem.

“I don’t think we have that readiness in the community,” Feneberg said.

Board members also acknowledged a priority at Town Meeting is passage of a new teacher contract.

“I’m not going to put any facilities item on the ballot until a teachers contract passes,” Joanis said.

School Board member Jerome Rekart told colleagues research is clear that teachers are what’s most important for the success of a student.

“We all agree on that,” Rekart said.

Farrell also was concerned about the evolving price tag for a middle school project.

She said officials had discussed options from $10 million and up.

Joanis pointed out that the latest figure includes site work and a multipurpose room, raising the price tag to $16 million for an addition.

Rekart and Farrell both said they need more time to consider the latest option, before going forward.

“We’re not ready,” Farrell said.

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