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Public input sought on solving Windham school space issues

WINDHAM — Since voters rejected a warrant item for the construction of a new $31 million Windham Middle School last spring, school officials have continued tackling the constant space crunch.

As a new school year looms ahead, administrators are already talking possible solutions and haven’t ruled out making another attempt for a new school at Town Meeting in 2014.

During lengthy discussions at the School Board meeting on July 2, Chairman Mike Joanis said there are various options being considered in the coming months.

Citizens will have a chance to offer up their thoughts on those options during a public hearing at Windham Town Hall on July 23.

District officials learned this month that there’s no state building aid available for the coming year.

Joanis said the district’s upcoming Capital Improvement Plan would first and foremost need to address the most immediate need — roof replacements for several district schools.

Repairs would total $433,000 next year and $106,000 the following year, business administrator Adam Steel said.

The deadline for next year’s CIP requests is July 19.

In March 2012, voters rejected a warrant article that would have added modular classrooms to address space needs and fund architectural and engineering for the design of the new middle school.

This past March, a warrant article for the construction of a new school on London Bridge Road, near the new high school, along with a new high school turf field, was also rejected.

Joanis said the public hearing scheduled for later this month would be an early step in addressing citizen concerns and needs prior to placing any bond articles on next year’s ballot.

“The intention right now is to work through the summer and decide on our timeline,” said Joanis, who noted that further public forums would take place in September and October.

As it stands now, school officials are making a list of options and pros and cons.

A complete bond hearing will take place in early January, with the school deliberative session to take place the following month.

Voters would have the final say on any major school projects at the March 11 polls.

“Right now, we’re looking at a long list of potential capacity options,” Joanis said.

Those options include portable classrooms, building additions on Golden Brook and Center schools or possibly relocating the town’s eighth-graders to the newer, larger Windham High School.

“Of course, we can always consider some other options that arise,” Joanis added.

While its too early to tell what the coming year’s final enrollment tally might be, that, too, will come into play while discussing the district’s space situation, school officials said.

The Windham School Board will meet Tuesday, July 23, at Town Hall at 7 p.m. Residents are encouraged to participate in the public hearing.

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