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$24M addition to high school sought in Pelham

PELHAM – If all goes as planned, Pelham High School may look quite a bit different in the coming years.

During the June 5 Pelham School Board meeting, community members got a sneak peak at the proposed plans to build a two-story addition to the aging facility, along with a 240-seat auditorium.

Estimated construction costs are currently in the $24 million range, though a scaled-down version that’s about $4 million cheaper hasn’t yet been ruled out.

The board will decide whether or not to support the project, and which version, sometime in the coming month, although voters at the March Town Meeting would still have the final say as to whether or not the addition gets built.

Very few community members attended last week’s meeting, though Chairman Brian Carton said there are several questions remaining as to what the project’s scaled-back version may entail.

“What would we be giving up?” he asked.

Also present at the meeting were representatives from Lavallee Brensinger Architects, a Manchester-based design firm tasked with conceptualizing the new school addition.

Architect Lance Whitehead said the project’s ultimate costs would depend on how many new classrooms are added, noting that cutbacks could come in the areas of landscaping, as well as conducting fewer improvements than initially proposed in the school cafeteria.

Two new entrances could also be scaled back or eliminated, as could a proposal to built tennis courts on campus, Whitehead noted, though several in attendance said they’d be hesitant to do so.

Business Administrator Adam Steel said he feared a stripped-down version of the project “might not meet all the district’s needs” down the road, noting that the less ambitious plans would mean 3,000 fewer square feet of education space.

Whitehead stressed that either way, the new addition would make for a more spacious, more energy-efficient school with more natural lighting inside.

“It’s a simple plan, but its elegant,” he told the board.

According to soon-to-be Superintendent Amanda Lecaroz, the district hopes to have all the cost details worked out by next month so they can get the word out to voters.

In late January, the School Board voted unanimously to pursue a proposal to renovate and add on to the existing high school.

School officials said the conceptual design would tackle some of the school’s current challenges, including the need to pass through one classroom to get to another, as well as the current lack of space for children receiving special education services.

The new addition would also eliminate the need for portable classrooms by bringing the total number of classrooms from its current 39 rooms to up to 46 rooms, and increase parking spaces.

In 2010, voters turned down a warrant article to build a new high school, proposed at a cost of $37 million.

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