Is this the year the Lebanon school renovations pass the vote?

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 2/5/2022 1:59:57 AM
Modified: 2/5/2022 1:58:31 AM

LEBANON — Supporters of school modernization plans for Lebanon High School and Hanover Street School hope this will finally be the year the projects get over the hump with voters.

The high school renovation would add a new student center, a large music suite — including a band room and individual practice spaces — and a new fire alarm system, as well as a secure, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible main entryway and reception area. These upgrades would cost roughly $5.1 million.

The Hanover Street School renovation would add a new cafeteria with a stage that can seat 150 students, four new classrooms and an ADA-accessible nurse’s suite, and will improve existing special services and student support spaces as well as expand the library and media center. A stairwell located near the media center would also be enclosed for student safety. These renovations would cost roughly $9.2 million.

Junior Angelina Truong, a Lebanon High band librarian, said it is important for the community to invest in music programs the same way it does other extracurricular activities.

“The football and basketball team and other sports teams get a lot of new equipment and new gear, but in the past few years, the music and art program have not had as many funds given,” said Truong. “It’s nice to be taken seriously … and to have this space for students where they can practice and be together in a comfortable, open space.”

Senior Theresa Caladrella noted that music and theater can play just as significant a role in a student’s life as athletics or academics.

“I hope that this will be a space where kids can come and express themselves free of judgment and be incorporating (music) into their lives instead of it being an added, extra thing, because it doesn’t have to be,” said Calandrella, the band president. “It can be incorporated into your daily life, but I think that’s what’s so amazing about it. And so I hope that this band room will help foster that sort of culture for everybody.”

The renovation projects will be discussed at the School Board’s deliberative session on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Hanover Street School.

With a combined estimated cost of $14.3 million, the initial property tax impact is projected to be 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That would increase to as much as 46 cents per $1,000 after six years.

The bond to finance the project needs to receive 60% support at the polls on March 8. Past proposals to upgrade the school — this will be the fourth attempt in five years — have garnered majority support but haven’t been able to reach the supermajority needed to pass. The school board voted, 8-1, in support of this year’s proposal.

The proposed additions to the schools — which share a campus and were mostly constructed in the 1950s and ’60s — would be the first significant upgrades since 2002.

LHS band director Dominick DeFrancisco and choral music and theater arts teacher Emma Cooke estimate that roughly a quarter of the high school’s students are currently involved with the performing arts program, either through for-credit classes or extracurricular activities.

DeFrancisco noted that with a designated soundproofed band room, students in other classrooms will no longer be disturbed by music classes or band practice.

Students said that the program’s current setup — a room on the second floor of the building — can be uncomfortable due to overcrowding, forcing some students to rehearse in the cafeteria or in stairwells.

Supporters of the project also noted the renovation will make the school buildings more inclusive and accessible.

Junior Miles Sturges, the moderator of the LHS council, said that the school’s current ADA-accessible entrance is in an inconvenient location that forces those who are unable to use the school’s main entrance to travel farther.

Sturges noted this arrangement “kind of defeats the point of an ADA entrance.”

“(The accessible entrance) doesn’t feel as welcoming as I would like it to feel,” said Ann Sharfstein, a reading specialist at the high school and parent of two students who attend school in the district.

The ADA entrance brings visitors into building by students’ lockers rather than the main foyer.

“I think it’s really important that the central part of the school, the front part of the school, is where everyone can come in,” Sharfstein said.

The new cafeteria would have a significant impact at Hanover Street School, according to project backers. The elementary school and high school currently share a cafeteria, so scheduling lunch periods, rehearsals and group meetings can often be a challenge.

HSS parent and PTO member Katie Scanlon noted that the shared space can create “time crunches” that have the potential to “interrupt the learning day of an elementary school kid.”

“There’s so much value in adding a cafeteria and a stage to Hanover Street School to really make the learning environment as great as it can be,” she said.

“This renovation would be a great way of rebuilding the school community post-pandemic. Finding those spaces where those students and teachers can meet and work together, I just think there’s so much value in that.”

Scanlon acknowledged the project would have significant tax impacts, especially in the years before the money borrowed to build Lebanon Middle School is repaid in 2032.

Still, she said waiting any longer to renovate the building could lead to higher costs eventually.

“It’s a heavy tax burden, but I think when you think about the education of the Lebanon community, the families in the Lebanon community, if you want to keep these families in the Lebanon community, we really need to prioritize on our efforts,” she said. “When we’re looking to the future and what we want to be able to give our kids, what our kids’ education is going to look like is just invaluable.”

Lauren Adler can be reached at

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