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March 26, 2014

First step to a new school

Council sets June 10 vote to consider temporary tax hike for new Hunking

HAVERHILL — A parent group leading the campaign for a new Hunking school won their first victory last night.

City Council unanimously declared the proposed $61.5 million school critical to the city’s future and set June 10 as the day voters will go to the polls to consider temporarily raising property taxes to pay the city’s estimated $24 million share of the project. The state has agreed to pay the balance for a new, 1,005-student building in the city’s Bradford section that will serve students in kindergarten to grade eight.

Dozens of parents, students and school and city officials packed the standing-room-only meeting to support the plan, many wearing stickers bearing the slogan “Haverhill for Hunking: Vote Yes for School Success.”

“The last two and half years have been tough for Hunking parents and the students, not knowing how this serious problem was going to be fixed,” said Dena Papanikolaou, one of the parent organizers who has two children at Hunking.

In late 2011, the city closed half of Hunking Middle School due to fears a portion of the building could collapse. About 150 students were sent to another school due to structural problems. Repairs were made and the students were eventually moved back to Hunking, but the building is expected to be usable for only two or three more years.

Papanikolaou told the council that her son was one of the students moved across the city to another school in 2011. She recalled a day not long after that when her son was visiting his grandparents.

“They asked him how was school, which is common question that grandparents ask,” Papanikolaou said. “My son told them, ‘my school is a dump and people don’t care.’”

“I hope there is no doubt in this room that this is a community problem,” Papanikolaou said. “It’s not about one school in one area of the city effecting a few kids. It’s about addressing our city’s educational infrastructure and a problem that we need to come together as a community to fix.”

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