EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 2, 2012

Timberlane officials put gym repairs on hold

Timberlane officials re-evaluate school needs

By Dustin Luca dluca@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PLAISTOW — In its day, Timberlane Regional High School’s mini gym was part of a state-of-the-art sports complex.

Today, the facility is in dire need of replacement. But with other financial matters coming before the district and the economy still floundering, the project is being put on a back-burner as Timberlane officials considers their options.

“It’s a useful space to us,” high school principal Don Woodworth said. “The problem is, we can’t keep paint on the walls. There’s some issues with the ceiling from the outside, moisture within the concrete.”

The space is lacking basketball hoops “because the walls couldn’t support them,” Woodworth said.

Voters in Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown rejected a $4.8 million plan to replace the mini gym and adjacent locker rooms in March. Since then, the district has been considering the project alongside other priorities, according to Superintendent Earl Metzler.

“The need still exists,” he said. “We need to be mindful of the economy, and we’re trying to place a teachers contract before the community to vote on.”

That contract is expected to come before the town next year. Since taxpayers are the deciding vote on the contract, Metzler said putting the mini gym project before them in the same year could make it tough to get a green light on everything at once.

So, voters will likely see the contract, but not the gym, when they vote next year.

“Hopefully, they can support us and take a look at our bigger facility needs next year, or soon thereafter,” Metzler said.

While a full-size gym elsewhere at the school meets athletic needs that the mini gym can’t handle, the mini gym is still used regularly.

“We can teach a regular class in there, or we can throw mats in there and use it for tumbling,” Woodworth said. “With the new superintendent, it’s a great opportunity for us to circle the wagons and say, ‘what do we want to achieve?’ Let’s take a good look at the timeframe, see what the community’s will is and make a plan.”

Timberlane School Board Chairman Robert Collins said the mini gym “is not in great shape. It needs to be repaired. It can’t continue indefinitely in the state it’s in if we want to utilize that space.”

It’s “is probably the highest-priority item” facing the district, Collins said.

“The board’s going to discuss the capital improvement plan in the near future,” he said. “I’m sure that will be part of the discussion.”

In a few weeks, officials will receive a study that used infrared technology to study the mini gym and get a closer look at where its structural issues are.

“It would definitely provide us with a shelf life,” Metzler said. “The report will pretty much be a major part of how we plan to address that situation.”

There is also still talk of moving the district’s middle school to the high school facility after a new high school is built, according to Woodworth. Any upgrades to the mini gym would consider middle-schoolers using the space in the future.

Replacing the high school in the long run “may still be the best way to go,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a climate where we don’t have the resources to do any of it. Let’s revisit the plan and let’s do something.”