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July 11, 2013

Board pushes ahead with Windham school plans

WINDHAM — The School Board is ready to renew efforts to expand school building capacity and upgrade athletic fields.

The board is inviting the public to participate in a community discussion of the future of school facilities at a meeting later this month at Town Hall.

Chairman Mike Joanis last week told the School Board the session won’t be the last chance for people to speak about school facilities.

“We’re proposing to have several opportunities for public input,” Joanis said.

The board also plans to seek input from residents during forums in September and October, before deciding what options to pursue through the Town Meeting process, he said.

“I think it’s great to start getting more input from the public, but I think we need to make sure people know we are thinking of doing that,” board member Michelle Farrell told Joanis, encouraging school officials to promote the forum.

School Board member Dennis Senibaldi wasn’t optimistic about attendance for the first session.

“If you got 15, I’d be shocked,” Senibaldi said, noting the forum is in the middle of summer.

Voters in consecutive years have rejected a $31 million middle school project and engineering fees to design one.

Discussion will be focused on familiar options for Town Meeting 2014.

“We just have a long list of potential capacity options,” Joanis said. “None of these are really new and exciting.”

Joanis said he wants more discussion this year of an addition at the middle school, along with site improvements that could improve traffic flow.

Board member Stephanie Wimmer acknowledged potential site improvements have been an obstacle to pursuing an addition before.

“That was one of the challenges we never solved,” Wimmer said.

Farrell wondered if school officials will have dollar estimates to present to the community at the upcoming forum.

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