EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 12, 2013

More decay discovered at Hunking

Public invited to meeting tomorrow on new school

By Bill Cantwell

---- — HAVERHILL — A new study has shown more of the structure of Hunking Middle School is deteriorating, further convincing officials that the city must build a new school to replace the Hunking.

That is according to School Superintendent James Scully. He said the city will have a meeting tomorrow night to inform the public about the effort to build a new school.

Scully said it is important that city leaders hear residents’ opinions on topics such as what grades the building should house and what size it should be.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the library of Haverhill High School, 137 Monument St.

City leaders have been working with state officials to get state money to cover most of the cost of a new building. Scully said tomorrow night’s meeting will inform residents about that process and the additional deterioration that was recently detected at the Hunking. He said the building is safe for students, but its condition is likely to worsen.

In the fall of 2011, engineers discovered structural deterioration that forced the city to move 150 students out of Hunking due to fears part of the building would collapse. The city has since made temporary repairs, allowing the children to move back to Hunking, but Scully and other school officials said the building is only good for about four more years before it must close or receive more repairs.

City officials want to build a new school. To pay Haverhill’s share of the cost of such a project, voters must approve a debt exclusion that would raise taxes beyond the limits of Proposition 2 1/2.

Sculy said the recently discovered additional deterioration at the Hunking should be enough to convince the public that a new school should be built, instead of Haverhill trying to repair the 50-year-old Hunking.

“I call this crisis countdown,’’ Scully said. “Something has to be in place to house 500 students four years from now. We have to determine what’s most cost effective for the city. I can’t see throwing any more money into it (the Hunking) with the state willing to pay (most of the cost) for a new school.’’

Scully said he believes there is a public perception that the Bradford section of Haverhill has gotten better school facilities and more attention from school officials than the rest of the city. But that is not true, he said, citing the $32 million renovation project to Haverhill High School and the renovated Nettle Middle School. Neither of those schools is in Bradford.

Scully also talked about the poor condition of the century-old Greenleaf School in Bradford, which needs a new roof, new heating and ventilation systems and improved electrical capacity. It also lacks proper handicapped accessibility, he said.

“That building (Greenleaf) is 100-plus years old,’’ Scully said. “I can’t get kids with handicaps into the building.’’

The city has selected a company to be project manager for a new school project. A committee of parents, teachers and other members of the community has been discussing space needs and other issues.

At tomorrow night’s meeting, the committee will tell the public what it has determined so far, Scully said.

“I personally think you have to look at the big picture,’’ he said. “The Hunking is decaying rapidly and we have a limited time frame to work with.’’