EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

November 20, 2012

Leaders seek new middle school

Projected cost is $25M

WINDHAM — The School Board will pursue a new middle school through Town Meeting.

Officials expect the school will cost about $25 million, about the same cost as phased additions at the existing middle school.

But board members agreed the new school will let them cope with district-wide crowding problems by opening the door sooner to future projects at other buildings.

By consensus, the board asked administrators to refine figures in the weeks ahead.

Business administrator Adam Steel last night outlined an approach that would let the district minimize the tax impact by staggering bond sales as the project unfolds.

A new middle school for seventh and eighth graders could open by August 2015.

Board members agreed the new school makes the most sense.

“It’s the right thing to do for our children,” board member Stephanie Wimmer said.

There’s no easy solution, board member Michelle Farrell said.

“It costs a lot of money,” Farrell said.

Chairman Bruce Anderson said phased additions at the existing middle school would be a logistical nightmare and officials would have to push for voter approval twice.

He questioned the most efficient way to solve the crowding problems. “I think it’s the new school, right now,” Anderson said.

Resident Barbara Coish predicted school officials will have a tough time getting the project approved.

“You’re not going to get it,” Coish warned, saying townspeople, especially seniors, can’t afford it now.

But resident Bob Coole supported the board’s stance.

“Your best bet all around is a new school,” he said.

An 87,000-square foot middle school would be developed off London Bridge Road near the high school and could be expanded in the future to add sixth graders.

The board also last night received a $45 million proposed budget from school administrators.

The School Board has until January to act on the budget. It calls for new business and science teachers at the high school and a new English and reading teacher position at the middle school.

The recommended budget would add 95 cents to the tax rate, while the default version would boost the tax rate 72 cents, Steel said.

The pending SAU split with Pelham would require Windham to spend about $225,000, much less than the $350,000 to $400,000 officials initially anticipated.

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