As the town of Londonderry grows in population and with the next school year mere months away from beginning, the Londonderry School Board recently started discussions for potential improvements to facilities in the district.
Plans for the district were featured in the town’s annual Capital Improvement Plan, which takes into account town government and school requests for improvements to conditions in the area for the fiscal years of 2019 until 2024.
The ideas suggested for the CIP include a new school district office, a new high school/district wide auditorium, renovations to numerous facilities, such as lighting, and a new elementary school in the area. The suggestions for a new elementary school and auditorium have been rejected several times in the past by the town.
The CIP would first be brought before a Capital Planning Committee on July 11, comprised of members of the school district, Budget Committee, Planning Board and Town Council, to review and rate the various suggestions before eventually putting the ideas before the Planning Board and public hearings. According to Superintendent Nate Greenberg, the CIP “provides the board with some framework” to smooth out any details.
The new school district office would be roughly 10,500 square feet and is being suggested due to a number of issues with the current offices. For one, space has become a major issue because of staff almost doubling since the building was first built in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Greenberg made the suggestion that leasing space elsewhere for a temporary office while a new one is being considered is a possibility.
Furthermore, because of the building’s age, air quality has also become a concern, with Business Administrator Peter Curro noting that the air quality system in the building “can’t maintain the power that it needs, given the additions and the amount of people that are in it.” Greenberg was equally vocal about the issue, stating that the “time has passed” to appropriately address the air quality.
A new 500-student elementary school was proposed due to the sheer size of Londonderry’s growing youth population. Although Greenberg said that “it’s a good thing that we’re getting more kids,” he was adamant that the potential for overpopulation in Londonderry’s current elementary schools is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
By focusing on enrollment projects and solving this issue, as well as the district office, Greenberg stated that addressing faculty needs would also help the educational needs of the students. Suggestions were made to move kindergarten classes out of the Moose Hill School and around the other schools for the sake of making room for elementary students.
Curro briefly brought up the possibility of an auditorium, acknowledging that voters have denied the project numerous times in the past. Nonetheless, he noted that he still feels that there is a need for a new auditorium or, as he described it, “multi-purpose acoustical building.” If approved, the project would not be addressed until fiscal year 2024.
No decisions were made during the school board’s meeting, but several members did speak out about the CIP. Chair Dan Lekas realized that the district should make a decision on these issues soon, but also wondered if the potential new elementary school and new district office could share the same building. Greenberg agreed that this could be a possibility.
Member Steve Young, who also will be leading the Capital Planning Committee, was happy that the town was looking into these and future concerns right now, but described the four million-dollar price tag for a new district office, before land acquisition, as “outrageous,” saying that he would not be willing to support it.