Greenleaf, which houses students in kindergarten and grades one and two, is badly deteriorated and not accessible to physically disabled students, Scully said. At Greenleaf, the library and cafeteria are in the basement, where physical education classes are also held, he said.
“This is an equity issue for all of Haverhill,” Scully said of his desire to use a new Hunking to balance enrollments between schools.
Scully said the proposed new school would house Hunking’s student population, which is nearly 500 in grades six to eight at this time, as well as students from schools across the city that are now overcrowded. He said Bradford Elementary has nearly 600 students, but was built to house about 460 students. A new Hunking would relieve overcrowding there, he said.
The student population at Greenleaf Elementary, which is currently about 200, would also be housed at a new Hunking.
“We’re above the state guidelines in almost every building,” Scully said about student overcrowding. “If you look at other communities that built new schools, you’ll see more people moved in and the tax base increased.”
The mayor, school superintendent, School Committee and City Council are unanimously backing the debt exclusion. Many elected officials have joined the parent group in campaigning for the project.
“Our parents built the newer schools in the city and their parents built our oldest schools,’ Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said. “Now it’s our turn.”
Daly O’Brien said she remembers Haverhill building several schools when she was a young girl. At that time, she and her two brothers and two sisters were enrolled at Catholic schools, she said.
“None of us were attending public schools, but my parents supported all the new schools the city was building at the time because they understood it was a civic responsibility,” she said. “Building schools is a generational responsibility and frankly I’m surprised at the small amount of push back we are getting.”