Town mulls nearly $1m proposal for school rooms

LYNDEBOROUGH – There will be kindergarten in September, but whether it will be held in a new addition to Central School is still in doubt.

Close to 100 people discussed the proposal to add three rooms to the school for more than two hours at the school Deliberative Session Saturday. There were a lot of suggestions, but in the end, the warrant article wasn’t changed and will be voted on as presented March 10.

The cost of the proposal is $990,000, with $325,000 to be paid through a state kindergarten construction grant. The remaining $665,000 is to be bonded over 10 years.

The proposed operating budget of $1,439,631, an increase of $65,700 or 4.78 percent, over the current year, was discussed for a half-hour, but no changes were made. The meeting lasted 3-1/2 hours.

Closing the school and tuitioning all of the current 81 students to another town was discussed at length. A suggestion was made to put that option on the warrant as part of the building package, but Moderator Walter Holland said it was too much of a change – that the intent of the article can’t be changed at a deliberative session, and that people have to be notified of any proposal to be discussed.

>>Town Meeting ‘09 << Holland said the idea could be brought to next year's meeting as a petition. dis trict a little over $100,000 "under present and ideal conditions," school board Chairman Geoff Brock said. While costs of teachers, supplies and maintaining the building would be cut, costs of special education, transportation, the school board and superintendent would not. "I worked on this all day," Brock said, anticipating the question, and found savings of $113,000, plus the yearly $60,000 cost of the bond. He noted that figure could change, since Lyndeborough would have no say in another school district's budget or have a guarantee of space if that community grows. But several speakers said closing the school would mean a loss of community, the chance children have in a small school to form friendships, plus a long bus ride for very young children. "We could close the school," school board member Fran Bujak said, "but we'd still have the obligation to educate our children." The building proposal would add a kindergarten room plus new classrooms for first and second grade. The current classrooms would be remodeled into a library/computer room and special-education room. Both rooms are smaller than state guidelines for classrooms. The plan was presented by Bujak and architect Kyle Barker. Bujak said the plan would address some of the problems with the building, but that "it is not a cure-all for the problems," in that windows, ventilation and heating problems will remain. New construction would be cement block and brick, to match the original 1949 part it would adjoin, with the kindergarten room being built to the higher standards for a community shelter. In case the proposal fails, Brock said, the board is discussing leasing the lower level of Village Church, space formerly occupied by Babes In School Land Preschool. That space would be needed if the bond passes until the new rooms were ready for occupancy, probably in January. The cost of the lease would be covered by the state grant. Operating costs of the kindergarten, wherever it is, are included in the operating budget. Asked why the Budget Committee is supporting this proposal when it didn't support previous ones, committee member Kevin Boette said, "We believe in the long run this is a good idea for the town. This is a good construction year, and we have to do something" concerning kindergarten. In discussing the budget, Brock noted the changes in special education, down from last year, and rising costs of the superintendent's office with the withdrawal of Mascenic Regional from SAU 63. "They took 60 percent of the funding with them," Brock said, noting that almost as many staff members were needed, since there are still four school districts. Brock noted increases in medical insurance and retirement accounts. The staff is in the third year of a three-year contract, he said. "We cut out about $15,000 where we had a choice," he said. "We're trying the best we can without affecting education." At the end of the meeting, Dion Lewis, of Wilton, chairman of the committee studying the consolidation of the three school districts within Lyndeborough and Wilton, talked about the consolidation, which will be voted on at the cooperative district annual meeting March 5. A public hearing on the consolidation plan will be held at the high school Feb.19 at 7 p.m. Lewis said the proposed changes to the town's Articles of Agreement have been approved by the state Department of Education. The new board would consist of nine people, including four from Lyndeborough. There would be one master contract for the three schools. All capital expenses would remain in the town that voted them.