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Lebanon Schools Proposal Set

  • Georgia Tuttle, of West Lebanon, N.H., speaks in opposition to the $28.9 million in projects for Lebanon's school district buildings during a deliberative session on Feb. 3, 2018, at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon. The plan aims to make renovations and additions to Mount Lebanon School, Hanover Street School, Lebanon Middle School and Lebanon High School. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • People watch an animation of Mount Lebanon School showing the additions for the Lebanon School District Modernization Plan during a deliberative session on Feb. 3, 2018, at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Amye Mason, drama advisor at Lebanon Middle School, speaks on the lack of practice space for the after school drama program during a deliberative session on Feb. 3, 2018, at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, N.H. A new auditorium and performance arts center is part of a $12.9 million plan to modernize Lebanon school district buildings. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lebanon — Parents, school staff and fixed-income taxpayers weighed in on, but did not amend, a warrant article that proposes a $28.9 million bond to modernize Lebanon School District’s buildings at a deliberative session Saturday morning at Lebanon Middle School.

Supporters of the article, which will go to vote on March 13, said the renovations would make Lebanon more attractive to families who are considering moving into or out of the district, and would create a better environment for students and staff.

“In the long term, I’m thinking of the kids who are infants now, or not even born yet, who will benefit from this plan,” said Ann Sharfstein. “There are people who live here with young kids who may consider leaving if the schools are not what they’re hoping for for their families.”

The modernization plan, which was developed by the New Hampton, N.H.-based Marinace Architects, would include a cafeteria for Hanover Street School elementary students, who currently share the space with high schoolers; more secure school entrances; safer pick-up and drop-off areas; and more space for classrooms, offices and special services, Superintendent Joanne Roberts said during a PowerPoint presentation that detailed the plan and made a case for why it was necessary.

Reflecting on the presentation — which included photographs of cramped classrooms, an electrical closet used to store P.E. storage equipment, and an animated depiction of what completed renovations might look like — Jay Hutchins said, “If I was contemplating moving to Lebanon, and I saw all the deficiencies the school system has and we had children or were going to have children ... I would maybe look at Hanover instead.”

But several of the session’s roughly 50 attendees questioned whether some aspects of the plan were necessities or luxuries, particularly a new 650-seat auditorium and performing arts center at the high school.

“That feels a little bit like gravy to me,” said Hyrum Anderson, adding that the 5-4 split among School Board members to recommend the article made him uncomfortable.

“I don’t like a divided school board,” he said.

Others raised concerns about the cost to taxpayers, and expressed that they’d prefer to vote on renovations piecemeal, or at the very least would like to see a more detailed breakdown of what each project would cost.

“If people will vote for it, I’ll gladly pay my taxes knowing the decision was made with all the information out there, for everyone to decide,” Thomas Jasinski said.

Former mayor Georgia Tuttle, also a former Lebanon City Council member, wondered whether the renovations were the best way to spend tax dollars, especially given the burden on the city’s aging population.

“We are suffering from infrastructural failures in our sewer system. The water department will need a new building,” she said. “We need to take a step back and look at this with more detail.”

She added that “kids have a different perspective on the world” than adults do when it comes to the physical space in which they learn, pointing to Hanover Street School, which for decades used a basement in lieu of a gymnasium, as an example.

“To (students), the basement was a wonderful place and they liked it,” she said. “What we want as adults may not necessarily be what kids want.”

But Marina Liot, a former School Board student representative who grew up in the Lebanon school system, and spoke in favor of the plan, recalled going to Hanover Street School in its pre-gym days.

“We all remember being in the basement because there wasn’t any gym. ... It didn’t have any lights,” she said. “I think kids definitely remember those little details.”

Such details also are likely to impact the property values of Lebanon homeowners, Hutchins said. Though he described himself as “part of that aging population on a fixed income,” he supports making the changes sooner rather than later, when he thinks they may be more costly.

“I hate biting the bullet when I need to upgrade my kitchen, but I also recognize it will increase the value of the property. (The modernization plan) will increase the value of all our properties,” he said. “Do we upgrade the kitchen today, or do we wait a few years and bite a bigger bullet?”

Other articles, all unamended, included a budget increase from $42.9 million to $43.2 million; a $4.7 million contract agreement with the energy consulting company Trane Building Advantage, which would install new equipment in Lebanon schools that are expected to pay for themselves in energy savings; and a $300,000 addition to the district’s special education fund and the construction and renovations capital reserve fund.

Voting will take place on March 13 at Kilton Public Library, in West Lebanon; the United Methodist Church, in Lebanon; and City Hall Council Chambers, in Lebanon.

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at ejholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.