EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2013

Major school renovations on Hampstead ballot

School officials seek $6.33 million in renovations

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — HAMPSTEAD — Voters will have a big decision to make next spring.

The Hampstead School Board will ask voters to fund $6.33 million in renovations to Hampstead Central and Middle Schools.

“This is just the first phase,” assistant superintendent Roxanne Wilson said. “This is part of a long-range plan in improving the facilities.”

Most of the improvements will be done at Hampstead Central School, where $5.52 million worth of work is being proposed. The district is proposing 15,500 square feet of new space and 10,500 square feet of renovated space. The work would replace six portable classrooms.

“These classrooms were meant to be temporary,” Central School principal Dillard Collins said. “The oldest one was built in 1994. We are clearly way beyond what was supposed to be a temporary usage.”

There are three trailers with two classrooms apiece. One trailer houses a pair of fourth-grade classrooms. A second trailer holds music rooms, while a third is used for speech and occupational therapy.

Collins said there are several problems with the trailers.

“Students in those classrooms have to go outside and then into the main facility to even use the bathroom,” he said. “The kids constantly being outside also presents a safety concern.”

The school’s four kindergarten classrooms would get an overhaul under the plan.

“That wing was built in 1960s and the walls are considered substandard today,” Collins said. “They aren’t very energy efficient. It takes more heat to warm up the rooms.”

They also aren’t up to state standards.

“The state recommends kindergarten classrooms to be at least 1,000 square feet,” Collins said. “Ours are much smaller than that.”

Other renovations would include a building-wide sprinker system, a new elevator and several new restrooms.

At Hampstead Middle School, there would be $816,555 worth of renovations. The school plans to renovate the library, computer lab and the front entrance.

“Those are important renovations,” School Board member Ed Stewart said. “But the ones at Central School are critical.”

Earlier this year, the town paid Bread Loaf Corporation $284,750 to design the renovations. Chris Huston, a Hampstead native who attended both schools, was the lead architect.

Stewart said there were discussions to have the renovation projects presented as two separate warrant articles, but officials decided to combine them into one.

“If one is at a lower cost on the ballot, then voters would be more likely to go for that,” he said.

With voters approving a new $1.63 police station last year, Stewart hopes this will make these renovations more palatable.

“That was just a one and done project,” he said. “The way this would work is that they would finish paying off that one and then know they have another one coming.”

But Stewart knows it could be tough.

“No one believes it’s going to be an easy sell,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.”