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July 30, 2013

Residents weigh in on Windham schools

WINDHAM — An hour into last week’s School Board forum on facilities, the session sounded more like group therapy than future planning for school construction.

But the session did kick off the community’s latest effort to figure out what, if anything, to do about classroom crowding.

Officials are trying to come up with an approach voters can get behind next Town Meeting.

This year, voters rejected a $31 million new middle school. Last year, they turned down design fees for a new school.

That has the School Board in a listening posture.

Chairman Mike Joanis, opening the forum at Town Hall, said the School Board was politely asking for input relative to school and athletic facilities.

“We’re interested in getting feedback,” Joanis said.

But School Board member Jerome Rekart made it clear the status quo isn’t acceptable.

“Doing nothing is not an option this year,” Rekart said.

Resident Sean Donahue said school officials have to do a better job explaining why they need new space.

He also expressed frustration over his treatment by proponents of new construction when he asked questions before Town Meeting.

“I was flatly dismissed,” Donahue said.

He asked why would he get behind any plan when treated that way.

“Clearly, there’s something not right here,” Donahue said.

School moderator Betty Dunn encouraged the School Board to refrain in the future from combining into a single bond question the issue of paying for new facilities with sports fields.

Dunn said some people supported the middle school, but not the athletic field component.

“I really feel pretty strongly those things should be put on the ballot separately,” Dunn said.

Parent Alison Miller told the School Board to communicate better with the public.

“Let them know what the issues are,” Miller said.

Former School Board member Bruce Anderson called for residents to visit schools themselves.

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