Elementary Schools Plan Renovations

Voting for Dresden, Hanover and Norwich school budgets will take place Tuesday, March 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hanover residents can vote at the Hanover High School gym and Norwich residents can vote at Tracy Hall.

Hanover — Both the Ray School and Marion Cross School are proposing to upgrade aging facilities in the coming years, and residents Hanover and Norwich residents will see the impacts at this year’s district meeting.

In the Hanover , voters are being asked to approve a $50,000 warrant article that would pay for engineering and architectural fees for possible renovations and expansions at the Ray School, which was built in 1970.

“This is a formative check to see if the community is supportive of an engineering study to look at renovations ,” Ray School Principal Matt Laramie said.

Earlier this week, there were six industrial sized fans in the main office of the school because a leaky roof had caused ceiling tiles to fall and soaked the carpet. Similar issues have happened throughout the school, Laramie said.

The school also has been using a portable structure to house two classrooms for about a decade, and Laramie said that the administration would like to build a permanent expansion. The district is considering adding full-day kindergarten, and if that were to come to fruition, extra space might be needed.

If voters aren’t supportive of the engineering study, then the district could look at trying to fix some of the issues piecemeal, Laramie said.

Across the river at Marion Cross School, voters will be asked to approve borrowing $450,000 to pay for a gym roof replacement and energy and ventilation improvements.

Three school budgets are in play in the Dresden towns: the Hanover budget, which covers the Ray School; the Norwich budget, which accounts for Marion Cross School; and the Dresden budget, which covers the cost of the Richmond Middle School and Hanover High School.

Additionally, a negotiated contracts for Dresden and Hanover teachers are on the ballot after voters rejected a contract last year, and there’s a contested Hanover School Board race.

Hanover Budget

The $11.4 million Hanover budget is about $121,000 more than the current year, or a roughly 1 percent increase.

Enrollment is again a driving factor . Hanover pays tuition to the bi-state Dresden district to send sixth-graders to the Richmond Middle School, and next year enrollment will be up 12 students to 98. At $17,269 per sixth-grader, that’s an increase of about $207,000.

The School Board expects enrollment at the Ray School to decline from 457 to about 440, but Hanover School Board Chairman Robin Carpenter said the board doesn’t plan to cut one of its 24 classroom teachers.

There is a warrant article that asks the board to consider teaching Spanish from kindergarten to sixth grade, but the article would not be binding.

If all the Hanover warrant articles pass , it’s expected that the town’s school tax rate would increase 5 cents to $11.31 per $1,000 of assessed value, which would mean a school tax bill $4,524 on a $400,000 home, a $20 increase.

If the Dresden teachers contract passes, it would add an additional 7 cents to the tax rate, which would add an additional $28 onto the annual bill for $400,000 property, said Assistant Superintendent for Business John Aubin.

Carpenter is stepping down after eight years on the board and Chris Kubik is stepping down after one year. Bruce Duncan and Jona Roberts are each running unopposed for three-year seats.

Newcomer Brooks Robey, 53, is running against incumbent Erika Finlayson for a one-year seat.

Robey is the associate chief of staff for research at the VA Medical Center and associate professor at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine. He comes from a long line of educators. His father was a superintendent and his mother and two grandparents were all teachers. His children attend the Ray School and Richmond Middle School.

He said he doesn’t have an agenda and is happy with the school system, and is running because he thinks his background in science would be helpful to the board.

Finlayson was on the board from 2008 to 2011 before she stepped down in the fall 2011. She was reappointed in September 2012 when another board member resigned.

She has helped implement an education planning committee, which looks at academic issues such as curriculum and testing. She also served as chairwoman for the SAU 70 School Board and served on search committees for a new superintendent and principal. She said she has especially enjoyed working on developing a new teacher evaluation process.

Norwich School Budget

The Norwich budget is up about 5 percent to $5.1 million. An increase of about $171,000 in special education is driving the rise, although a large portion of that cost is expected to be reimbursed by grants from the state.

The district also plans to expand French classes into the third grade. Currently, French is only taught in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The new classes would require a few additional hours a week for a French teacher.

Marion Cross officials are projecting a drop in enrollment of seven, which means the administration is planning to reduce the number of classroom teachers from 19 to 18.

If the $450,000 bond for building improvements fails, there is an article for an additional $85,000 to be placed in the budget for building repairs. When the School Board decided to propose a bond, it took out $85,000 from the operating budget that it had set aside for piecemeal renovations.

The school portion of the tax rate in Norwich is expected to increase from $1.75 to $1.77 per $100 of assessed value, which would be about $7,080 on a $400,000 home — an $80 increase. Residents who qualify for Vermont’s income sensitivity program would pay less.

Dresden Budget

The Dresden budget, which includes the middle and high schools, is the only one in the district that is decreasing. The $23.2 million budget is a 0.3 percent decrease.

The budget includes nearly $100,000 for a technology initiative that will fund 30 iPads at the high school, 120 iPads at the middle school and iPad “boot camp” for teachers, among other things.

Richmond Middle School is expecting a 16 student drop in enrollment. There will be a $105,000 savings in “regular education teacher salaries” because of a decrease in .53 full-time equivalent positions and turnover in staff.

At the high school, special education staffing is declining by 4.35 full-time equivalent positions, and that’s partly because assistive technology is being implemented more, Dresden School Board Chairman Carey Callaghan said. Assistive technology can be anything from a pencil grip to a communication device that allows a student who cannot speak to communicate through a technology device.

“It’s so student specific that I can’t say four iPads equals one person,” special education director Rhett Darak said. “It really comes down to specific students and if their needs can be met through an assistive technology device.”

Dresden and Hanover teachers also agreed on a three-year contract that includes 2 percent base pay increases for each year of the contract.

Teachers have gone two years without a contract. Last year, both the Hanover and Dresden contracts were voted down, and opponents even took out advertisements encouraging people to vote down the so-called “Dresden premium.” Teachers in Dresden earn an average of $69,833, more than $15,000 above the statewide average in New Hampshire.

A year ago, the Dresden Finance Committee did not support the contract, but this year members voted 6-2 in favor. The majority said that they supported the contract because it is more in line with expectations regarding net increases and may reduce the “Dresden premium.”

Each school district will have informational meetings prior to the district vote. The Dresden budget will be discussed at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Richmond Middle School gym. The Hanover budget will be discusses at 1 p.m. March 2 at the Richmond Middle School gym. The Norwich budget will be discussed at 7 p.m. March 4 at Tracy Hall.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.