EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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June 19, 2013

Haverhill eyes vote for new school

More problems emerge at deteriorated Hunking

HAVERHILL — As the city discovers more structural problems at Hunking School, residents will likely be asked to vote early next year on whether to pay for a new school.

That is according to a timeline suggested by an architect studying the project, including the building’s size and cost.

In late 2011, the city closed part of the Hunking and moved about 150 students to another building due to structural problems that threatened to collapse part of the Hunking, school officials said. Repairs to the Hunking have since been made, but it is expected to be usable for only four more years at most, the officials said.

More recent studies show the Hunking is deteriorating further, Superintendent James Scully said.

During a tour of the building yesterday by The Eagle-Tribune, workers were cleaning up debris in a bathroom that has been closed to students. Scully said the tile on the bathroom floor has broken apart due to groundwater rising into the base of the building. That problem exists because the school was built on wetlands about 50 years ago, according to him and engineers working for the city.

Other recent problems include a large crack in a cement block wall inside a closet.

Scully has stressed that the recent deterioration causes no safety risks for students, but that he believes it shows the school cannot be saved, so a new one must be built. He said the school is monitored regularly for structural safety and air quality.

Haverhill is eligible for state money to pay about two thirds of the cost of building a new school. That would leave city taxpayers footing about one third of the cost.

Last week, city and school officials hosted the first in a series of meetings to inform residents about the Hunking’s condition and Haverhill’s effort to build a replacement school. At the meeting, state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, whose district includes most of Haverhill’s Bradford section where the Hunking is located, said the city should take advantage of the available state money.

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