Mount Lebanon School addition is first of a trio of school modernization projects to open to city’s students

Dawn Thibodeau prepares cheese pizza for hot lunch at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The school’s kitchen nearly tripled in size after the recently-completed addition, allowing school staff to make meals on site instead of relying on deliveries of prepared food. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dawn Thibodeau prepares cheese pizza for hot lunch at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The school’s kitchen nearly tripled in size after the recently-completed addition, allowing school staff to make meals on site instead of relying on deliveries of prepared food. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Joni Larabee, left, checks off students as they receive their lunches while paraeducator Gwen Lindsley, center, and district reading teacher Kimberlee Terrien, right, help kindergartners Elinor Gilbert and Wilson Wang pick out fruits and vegetables to go with their pizza at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Joni Larabee, left, checks off students as they receive their lunches while paraeducator Gwen Lindsley, center, and district reading teacher Kimberlee Terrien, right, help kindergartners Elinor Gilbert and Wilson Wang pick out fruits and vegetables to go with their pizza at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

An art installation decorates the side of the 4,500 square-foot addition to Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The project was paid for through the use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and capital reserve funding. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

An art installation decorates the side of the 4,500 square-foot addition to Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The project was paid for through the use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and capital reserve funding. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Athletic equipment is set up for an upcoming physical education class at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The new addition to the school includes a 2,000-square-foot multipurpose room that functions as a cafeteria and gym, and a retractable partition allows the space to be used for larger events. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Athletic equipment is set up for an upcoming physical education class at Mount Lebanon Elementary School in West Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The new addition to the school includes a 2,000-square-foot multipurpose room that functions as a cafeteria and gym, and a retractable partition allows the space to be used for larger events. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By NICOLA SMITH

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 11-24-2023 1:15 PM

WEST LEBANON — Thanks to an ambitious infrastructure project paid for in part by the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, the Mount Lebanon Elementary School, with 256 students in grades K through 4, now boasts a new kitchen, an expanded multipurpose room and a nurse’s office. 

Work began on the project in June 2022 and was completed in July this year, said Mount Lebanon Principal Katie Roach in a telephone interview. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for staff, students and parents was held last week to celebrate the improvements. 

The school, on White Avenue next to the West Lebanon Cemetery, was built in 1953. Over the years the building has not only experienced inevitable wear and tear, but also has seemed too cramped for an increased student body with a variety of needs. 

Prior to the addition of a full working kitchen, lunches for students had to be brought over from the middle and high schools and then warmed up. “It was a pain to bring food from other schools, and there was not enough storage. Now the food is made here every day,” said Roach, who is in her ninth year at Mount Lebanon, and her third year as principal.

“All the elementary students now have a similar experience in their own school in their own space. This gives everybody the ability to eat in a communal way on both sides of town,” said Lilian Maughan, chairwoman of the Lebanon School Board, in a phone interview. West Lebanon  elementary school students attend Mount Lebanon; Lebanon elementary school students attend Hanover Street School, located off Route 120.

The nurse’s office has been expanded to include a new bathroom with a shower, and a quiet space for students who are feeling unwell. The multipurpose room, which includes the gym, has been doubled to roughly 2000 square feet. A parking lot for staff, and additional parking spaces, were added, Roach said. 

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The cost of the Mount Lebanon Elementary School construction was $5.5 million, which was funded with ESSER; a capital reserve fund; a general fund; and a food service fund, which partially covered costs of new kitchen equipment.   

The upgrades at the Mount Lebanon Elementary School are only part of a slate of improvements underway in the Lebanon School District, said SAU 88 Superintendent Amy Allen in a phone interview. A native of the Upper Valley, Allen has been superintendent since July 1; she was previously assistant superintendent in the Manchester School District. 

The Hanover Street School, with 456 students, is getting additional classrooms, an art room and its own cafeteria; it has been sharing a cafeteria with Lebanon High School. The high school, with 615 students, will have a new, central front entry that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with a lobby to the side; a new band room; and two new rehearsal rooms. 

The high school’s principal, Ian Smith, said the new entrance will make the building safer because it repositions a front office “in a location where there are sightlines to see who’s coming and going.” 

Natural lighting, higher ceilings and the bigger open space upon entering will contribute to a more pleasing and welcoming aesthetic, Smith added. Smith, Allen and Maughan were at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Construction on both the Hanover Street and high school projects began immediately after graduation this past spring. The cost for both is estimated at $14.3 million, which was funded by a taxpayer-approved bond in March 2022. There had been three prior unsuccessful attempts since 2017 to obtain Lebanon residents’ approval to fund school renovations, which requires a 60% majority of voters to support a bond. “We listened to the voters and the school district made appropriate reductions in size and cost,” Smith said.

Lebanon High School band director Dominick DeFrancisco said in a phone interview that he, and the students he leads, are “excited to have our own space … where we don’t have to share equipment” with other departments. 

When the new spaces debut at the beginning of the school year in fall 2024, musicians will no longer have to carry cumbersome equipment down from the second floor but will be able to wheel equipment out from the first floor, DeFrancisco said. 

Stephanie Yaroshevich, the president of the Lebanon PTO was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony with her daughter, who is in third grade at Mount Lebanon. She looks forward to seeing the children share the expanded multipurpose space “where kids can eat lunch together and play together.”  

Allen voiced what seemed to be a common sentiment among staff, parents and students at the ceremony. “I’m excited to see this vision come true from the previous board and superintendent  — to create these new spaces for the community.”

Nicola Smith can be reached at mail@nicolasmith.org.