EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 25, 2012

Pelham to pursue kindergarten expansion

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — School officials plan to pursue a $1.75 million kindergarten expansion project at Pelham Elementary School.

“We will almost certainly offer a (Town Meeting) warrant article asking voters to approve a four-room addition to Pelham Elementary School for kindergarten,” School Board Chairman Brian Carton said. “This is our last chance to capture kindergarten building aid through the state.”

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz said as much as $1 million could come from the state to help pay for the project.

Officials are hopeful Pelham can get state help now, but are not so sure about the future.

“We have had conversations with our representatives at the Statehouse and there are no plans at this point not to fund kindergarten construction,”Lecaroz said, “but this will be the last chance Pelham has to qualify for these funds.”

The provision for state aid lapses under state law next June.

At that point, the only hope Pelham would have for continued kindergarten construction aid in the future would be if lawmakers chose to renew the program.

That is uncertain. While Democrats recently gained control of the House, the Senate remains in Republican hands and the state has many difficult budget decisions ahead.

Meanwhile, the possibility of having high-schoolers and middle-schoolers swap buildings appears dead. Officials had been exploring that possibility as a solution to school district space and facility needs.

“The flip has been taken off the table in favor of an addition-renovation project at Pelham High School,” Lecaroz said.

Experts who looked into the concept concluded it would be more costly to taxpayers than renovation and expansion of both schools, Lecaroz said.

“The group did not see the ‘flip’ option as viable,” Carton said.

The School Board approved at its last meeting spending $13,000 for a preliminary renovation and expansion for the high school, he said.

“This may lead to a 2013 warrant article to approve full architectural and engineering fees for that concept,” Carton said. More details are expected to emerge as the town budget and warrant process unfolds in the coming weeks.