Support Builds for PHS Remodeling

January 31, 2014

Courtesy Photo Back row: Deb Leuteritz, Linda Dart-Kathios, Ileana Villanueva, Kathy Salvati, Sylvie McFarland, Megan Larson and Jen Sprague. Front row: Colton Harrison and Avery Larson.

by Lynne Ober

As you travel around Pelham, you will start seeing crisp white T-shirts with a blue logo stating “Say YES to PHS.”  Supporters of the Pelham High School remodeling project are wearing the T-shirts, developed by Pelham ACES (Awareness for Community and Education Support).

The T-shirts made their first appearance on Facebook prior to the Sunday evening ACES meeting and were quickly purchased at the Sunday meeting.  According to ACES’ members, anyone wishing to buy a tee can contact ACES at PelhamAces@gmail.com.

This March, voters will find the following warrant article on the ballot, “Warrant Article 1:  Shall the Pelham School District vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Twenty-Two Million, Six Hundred Fifty-Four Thousand dollars ($22,654,000.00) for the construction, furnishing, and equipping of an addition to Pelham High School and remodel of the existing Pelham High School facility, and to authorize the issuance of not more than Twenty-Two Million, Six Hundred Fifty-Four Thousand dollars ($22,654,000.00) of bonds or notes in accordance with the provision of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA Chapter 33) and to authorize the School Board to issue and negotiate such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest thereon and to authorize the School Board to apply for, accept, and expend federal, state, or other aid which may be available for the project and to comply with all laws applicable to the project, and to take all other necessary action in connection therewith; and to further raise and appropriate the additional sum of Five-Hundred Ninety-Seven Thousand, Five-Hundred dollars ($597,500) for the first year’s payment of interest on the bond? Three-fifths (3/5) ballot vote required.”

Pelham resident and current Vice Chairman of the Pelham School Board, Deb Ryan, is excited about the support that this proposal has already received.  “The board is united behind this proposal.  We feel we used all of the data that has been gathered over the years the board has worked on which option is best for Pelham high school students; we got all of the experts into one room and we have an excellent solution that will be on the ballot.”

The year before last a thorough structural analysis was done of the school.  “We had never done a structural analysis before,” commented Ryan.  When it was time to design the proposal, all the experts sat together in the room.  With the architect, engineers and other experts gathered together, they could analyze each proposal and choose the best choice.  The end result for Pelham could be a high school that will carry future generations of students through their high school years.

According to Ryan, Pelham enrollments are expected to continue to be flat with small declines.  That said, every school district that has built a new high school has seen an influx of new residents whose children are reaching high school age.  “We expect that could happen in Pelham so we might actually see some growth.  While construction has slowed in Pelham, there are some housing projects currently being developed so there is the opportunity for new families to join our community.”  The proposal will build for 800 students.  From a fiscal viewpoint, the difference for building for 800 students versus 700 students is one educational space and does not have a significant fiscal impact on the overall budget.  However, needing to expand from 700 students to 800 students in the future would have a significant fiscal impact and require another bond project as it is not easy to just add one educational space or to the core spaces.  The proposal also will support 900 students in core spaces.  The board found that a core of 900 would also assist in supporting community events in Pelham.

Thanks to the large volume of technical data collected to support the various high school proposals, Ryan said they had a complete look at land, needs and current capacity of the building.

The remodeling project will include building an addition onto the school.  “By building in front,” said Ryan, “we can move the septic system back to the field area behind the school.  This ground is sandy with no wetlands.  It is perfect for a septic system and it also provides an ability to expand the septic system should that become a need in future years.  This resolves one of the more difficult pieces of this puzzle.”

Because of the building, the board acknowledged that some fields would need to be reconfigured.  Residents can rest assured that the board is actively working on this.  The current tennis courts will be removed and relocated to the 86 Marsh Road property across the street from the high school.  The softball field will be moved to the space vacated by the tennis court relocation.  Discussion about the best location for the field hockey field is still underway.

Inside the building, not only will there be new and improved academic spaces, but adequate restroom facilities and a cafeteria that is finally sized for student population.  Core spaces such as the cafeteria are being sized for 900 students in order to provide for the future.  An auditorium will be built and used on a daily basis for instructional needs.  According to posted documents, “The addition of a modest auditorium will meet many community needs as well as this will be available to town and community organizations when not in use by the schools.”

The proposed total project budget contains $500,000 for new furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E).  Again, the board has looked at this and said the goal is to re-use existing FF&E and supplement only where needed with funds from the FF&E budget.

Parking has long been an issue at PHS.  With this project, 100 new parking spaces will be developed.

If this warrant article passes, the board has also published a potential timeline with a target completion date of summer 2016.  The project will be phased and will consider the enabling work, such as site work, septic, and fields in spring and summer 2014, build the new addition during the 2014-15 school year and complete the renovations on the existing building in summer 2015 and the 2015-16 school year.

Ryan said community support has already been positive and she is very hopeful that this will receive a positive vote at the March polls.  “Voter turnout will be the key to success, so it is imperative that everyone shows up to vote on March 11th,” she concluded.