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January 10. 2014 12:08AM

Windham School Board backs off proposal to expand facilities

WINDHAM — A warrant article for school facility expansions won’t appear on this year’s ballot, Windham School Board officials announced this week.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board agreed they’d prefer this year’s focus to remain on a proposed new contract for the town’s teachers, with several citizens in the audience supporting that decision.

“The voters have spoken,” board member Jerome Rekart said. “It’s clear they’d rather not spend on two things at once.”

Board member Mike Joanis added, “I’m concerned we’d do something we might live to regret later.”

Last year, warrant articles for a new contract for teachers and a proposed $31 million bond item to build a new middle school were defeated by voters.

Superintendent Winifried Feneberg said he felt the board’s budget, as proposed for next year, shows strong support for the district’s existing programs and services.

If approved by voters, the $44.2 million district budget would come in $714,500 higher than the current year’s budget. The total estimated tax impact would be 35 cents per thousand, or $123 for a home valued at $350,000.School officials said the budget increase is attributed to the anticipated increase of 21 students, a new dean structure at Windham High School, an additional school bus and seven new or expanded teaching positions to address needs in the town’s four schools.

School board member Dennis Senibaldi admitted that classroom crowding remains a problem in the district’s lower grades, but noted that a facilities expansion bond was almost guaranteed to fail before voters this spring.

“We saw that happen last year,” he added.

Feneberg said a facilities maintenance study is currently under way to try to address crowding without adding space. The study will be discussed further during an upcoming board meeting.

“There’s a plan that has to be done, but the question is what can be done at once,” Senibaldi said.

Voters will have the chance to decide on the new teachers contract at the March polls.

Overall, the new contract will cost the district $488,269 the first year and $505,237 the second year.

The Windham School Board will hold a budget and bond hearing on Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m.

The school deliberative session is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, at 7

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