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Woodsville High to Get Renovations

  • Janice Dube, of North Haverhill, N.H., approaches the microphone to speak against a proposal to close Woodsville Elementary School, bringing the students at the middle school to form a pre-K to 8th-grade school. The $7.25 million bond proposal was voted down, 273-82, at the annual school meeting in North Haverhill, N.H., on March 10, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Diane Kirkwood, of North Haverhill, N.H., shares her Town Report with Joe Cotrupi, also of North Haverhill, to see which item is up next on the agenda at Haverhill's annual school meeting in North Haverhill on March 10, 2018. Voters approved a $3.7 million bond to renovate the high school but voted down the $7.25 million proposal to consolidate the elementary and middle school students into one building. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mike Conrad, of Pike, N.H., asks the Haverhill school board why the King Street School couldn't move into the Woodsville Elementary School building that was proposed to be closed at the annual school meeting in North Haverhill, N.H., on March 10, 2018. Voters approved a $3.7 million bond to renovate the high school and construct a new building for King Street School -- an alternative school -- but voted down the $7.25 million proposal to consolidate the elementary and middle school students into one building. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2018

Haverhill This year’s school district meeting had its fair share of significant decisions: Voters approved a bond to renovate the high school, overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to consolidate an elementary school and middle school, and passed the budget.

After considerable debate, voters at the Haverhill Cooperative School District Meeting on Saturday morning approved a $3.7 million renovation and construction project that will address longstanding problems at Woodsville High School’s buildings.

Then they rejected a $7.25 million proposal to consolidate Woodsville Elementary School and Haverhill Cooperative Middle School into a single pre-K-8 facility. Both articles needed a two-thirds ballot vote to pass.

The renovation bond will go toward bringing the Woodsville High campus up to fire and safety codes and making it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will require the installation of elevators at the school. Repairing the leaky roof, replacing floors and windows, adding more parking spaces and building a new vestibule for Woodsville High, which dates back to 1896, are also among the items on the to-do list, School Board Chairman Richard Guy said.

The money also will go toward the acquisition of two parcels near campus, and toward tearing down and replacing the King Street School, which provides an alternative learning environment for students at risk of dropping out.

According to handouts provided at the meeting, the new structure will be paid for by SAU 23, which also includes the towns of Piermont, Bath and Warren.

“King Street School absolutely does need to be torn down. It’s just a disaster. It’s got mold, it’s got dirt cellars,” Guy said, estimating that the building had two or three usable rooms.

The School Board also noted that Woodsville High cannot become an accredited institution until it addresses its safety and accessibility issues. Resident Archie Steenburgh said that because accreditation is a big draw for parents, “if we do not do the improvements … at some point before too long we’ll lose the high school, and perhaps the rest of the schools.

“I don’t want somebody outside the town of Haverhill deciding how to spend my money.”

Others felt the bond was too high, and directed money toward projects that weren’t equally urgent. Janice Dube said she believed the School Board was exploiting the goodwill of voters by asking for so much taxpayer money.

“Taxpayers get dragged around by our purse strings, as a symphony is played on our heart strings,” she said.

In the end, the article passed by a vote of 258-102.

The consolidation plan, despite arguments from the School Board that it would save on operating and payroll costs, did not sit will with some voters who felt that the proposal was too vague on the details of how the borrowed money would be spent.

“I have no problem spending money in the school district. I do have a problem saying, ‘Let’s pass a bond and then work out the details later,’ ” said Sharon Tice. “I do believe there can be some benefits to consolidation. … I’m willing to spend $5 million on a plan if I feel it’s well hashed-out and all that jazz, but I’m not willing to spend $7 million if I don’t even know what I’m spending it on.”

The plan would have moved elementary school students to the middle school, and the empty building would have been put on the market.

Its location on a main intersection made it a prime piece of commercial real estate, Guy said, though opponents thought this was optimistic, given Haverhill’s relatively small business community.

Carol Nicholeris, a Woodsville resident with a 40-year education background, said that these “budgetary and political” concerns were less important than whether this decision would actually benefit students.

“There have been comments that pre-K through eighth grade is a smoother curriculum with fewer transitions and that the pre-K-8 model is better for education. There is no consensus in education research that supports any of these statements,” she said. “All in all, I don’t think anything about this proposal is for the benefit of education.”

The article was defeated 273-82.

By voice vote, Haverhill residents also approved a $14 million district budget that, despite being down $239,000 from this year’s, will still increase the education property tax rate due to less revenue by the state, from $21.99 to $22.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Residents also voted in favor of a $50,000 building maintenance trust fund and a $50,000 special education trust fund, and voted to accept a $250,000 bequest from Alice B. Moran, which would establish a Catherine A. Moran Memorial Expendable Trust Fund to improve math instruction in the district.

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