HAMPSTEAD – A proposed renovation project for Hampstead schools made no headway last year when voters overwhelmingly defeated the more than $6 million proposal for work at both schools, and while the School Board seems bent on putting another proposal before voters this coming March, details remain outstanding.
The board has been struggling with how to reduce the proposal’s cost while still eliminating the portable classrooms at Central School and fixing the kindergarten wing to keep exhaust fumes from entering the classrooms.
In June, Chris Huston, Bread Loaf’s vice president of architecture, reviewed the defeated proposal his company had produced and suggested a couple of less expensive options. The board has latched on to a figure of $4.5 million for a proposal for the coming year, but does not have details of what it would offer, other than involving only Central School. The proposal defeated in March involved work at Hampstead Middle School, which also has portable classrooms, as well.
The original proposal for Central School featured adding two floors, each with three classrooms; improvement and expansion of the kindergarten wing rooms to bring them into compliance with state size requirements; a hallway, stairs and elevator to connect the new construction to the existing building; a new exterior of the kindergarten wing to address energy loss concerns and infiltration of vehicle exhausts; and roof renovation. Also included was the removal of the school’s three portable trailers, which are used to house two fourth grade classes, some therapy services, a maintenance room, and two music rooms. The $6,180,520 bond issue was resoundingly defeated 431 in favor to 1,170 opposed.
Huston suggested a few proposals to reduce the cost, one at $5,393,598 and another at $4,549,467. Both focused solely on Central School and both eliminated the replacement of the 1960s roof, a second elevator, and an all-school sprinkler system. Huston said no redesign was needed.
The School Board struggled again Tuesday evening, Sept. 23, with the proposals but could not reach a decision.
Board chairman Greg Hoppa tried to focus the board on deciding what members want the renovation project to include, and Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson sought a decision about whether to have a warrant article this year.
Neither decision was reached.
With the exception of Jaye Dimando, the board did not directly address the proposed $4.5 million reduction proposal. Dimando urged the board to “think outside the box” because she thinks voters will not be any more approving of the reduced proposal than they were of the original.
“It is the same proposal without the elevator…It won’t be passed,” she said.
Board member Jason Cipriano made it clear he could not support any proposal that does not include a sprinkler system for the entire school. Members Suzanne Barr and Wayne Dinsmore, however, both pushed for retaining the current proposal.
Barr said she has heard some people say they won’t vote for a reduced plan because it doesn’t do enough to meet needs, but Dimando said voters will balk at being asked to approve a plan that is basically unchanged from last year, even if it is for less money.
Dimando tried to convince the other board members that a different design should be considered that would add fewer classrooms and be more cost effective, while eliminating the portable classrooms.
And Facilities Director Michael Hall told the board that what Dimando was suggesting, a scaled down addition, was what he and Huston were looking at. However, Wilson said that if the engineering design is significantly altered and a new design is needed, it would come with a cost.
In the end the board unanimously approved having Wilson talk with Huston about potential reductions that could be made within the present design, and to have him attend the Oct. 14 school board meeting to present his recommendations.