School District Seeks $9,425,000 Bond for Elementary School Upgrade
By Penny Williams 11-11-16
Raymond is looking at a $9,425,000 price tag for a renovation and construction bond project at Lamprey River Elementary School, the town’s elementary school that serves preschool through grade 4. The original building was constructed in 1976.
Last year voters narrowly defeated a 20-year bond proposal for $8,250,000 for renovation and construction at the school. The plan itself has not changed except for a slight angling of the proposed gymnasium to further support a student drop-off and pick-up design; the increased cost comes from rises in the cost of labor and materials. Meridian Construction Company has been chosen for the project.
Raymond School Administrative Unit (SAU) 33 Superintendent Ellen Small said the need for the addition has not gone away since the defeat and the increased space proposed in the project would address the school's needs.
The project consists of a two-story, 12-classroom addition to replace both the attached and free-standing portable classrooms that are considered by school officials to be inefficient and substandard educational facilities. The new plan would pull everyone inside the building and make it one community, something Lamprey River Principal Bryan Belanger considers important.
“The trailers are certainly a lower quality finish than the rest of the school building,” Belanger said. “Students have to walk outdoors to get to their classrooms in the weather. They have lower ceilings, and many lack access to bathrooms and running water. For these reasons I believe the portables are substandard.”
Belanger said the trailers are beyond end-of-life. They currently house three third-grade classes, five fourth-grade classes and two preschool classrooms. He noted the fourth graders who are housed in the portables have a two-minute walk to the main school building for bathroom visits.
Having students in the portables virtually creates two communities within the school and is something he would like to see resolved, Belanger added.
Belanger said the project would also resolve a problem the school faces with parents dropping students off in the back of the school, and having no access to the front of the building and the administrative offices. Each day, 120 to 130 students are dropped off behind the school by parents. The buses, however, deposit students in the front.
Belanger said a redesigned drop-off and pick-up model in the proposed project would get car queues off the road.
"This is an amazing drop-off and pick-up model we have in place now and the proposed project would make it even more efficient," Belanger said. "But most important, the students who are most vulnerable in our school have to deal with the most limited space for services and intervention, such as the nurse's and guidance facilities and the special education areas."
Belanger added that currently the school has no area except the cafeteria in which to hold a staff meeting.
The 12 new classrooms would replace the portables as well as provide two additional classrooms for preschool. All third-grade classes would be kept together, as would all fourth-grade classes.
The proposed plan would provide a new gymnasium as well, a facility that could be sealed off from the rest of the school and be available for community use on weekends. It would feature a specially secured entrance, lobby and bathroom facilities.
The gym’s importance for the school, according to Belanger, is to give students a place for physical education. Physical education programs are limited at present, and each year one grade has to have in-class recess. The school currently uses the cafeteria for a gym, a room that is only available when students are not having a meal.
Belanger added that the proposed gym would allow for after-school programs and more athletic programs.
The present school population is a little less than last year's 568 students, Belanger said. He noted that with new homes planned in town, it is important to prepare for possible increases in enrollment.
"This is a big elementary school, " he said. "Enrollments fluctuate and right now we are seeing a little less, but we need to plan for the future and be prepared to address increased enrollment. Investing in the school is an investment in the community of Raymond. We believe we are doing a good educational job with limited resources and dramatic space needs issues, but we are convinced we will be able to do so much more with the proposed school project."
Another aspect of the proposed plan is to switch the location of the administration area in order to allow for a secure entrance and reception area, while at the same time improving the nurse, guidance and special education spaces. Belanger said this would make the administration offices more accessible for parents.
The School Board last year approved seeking a 20-year bond with an estimated rate of 4.25 percent, with a year-one bond payment of $206,250 - an estimated tax impact of 24 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. In year one the estimated tax amount on a house valued at $200,000 would be $48; for year two that same property would face a tax impact of $160, while in year 21 it would be $100.
Ron Brickett, SAU 33 Business Administrator, said the decision has been made to again seek a 20-year bond. He said the bond bank told him at this time the interest would be 3 percent on the $9,425,000 project. Based on the Town's current appraisal figures, he said it is estimated that this would result in an 18 cent per $1,000 of assessed valuation on property taxes for the first interest-only payment of half a year.
The first year of the full principal and interest would incur an estimated 81 cents per $1,000 assessed value, which would drop each year to the final amount of 52 cents per $1,000 assessed value in the 21st year.
"All that is based on the assessed value remaining the same," Brickett said. "In addition, I will need to check closer to the first of the year to see if the bond interest amount has changed, which could happen if the Feds increase the interest rate."
Belanger is adamant about Lamprey River Elementary School’s being an important part of the community. He said the school is delivering a high quality of education to its students despite the space issues, but he is convinced the quality of the educational product would be enhanced when the space needs are addressed.
He welcomes input from the community and said he has been impressed by the love Raymond residents show for their children and the schools.
Small said a Parent/Community Forum on the proposed renovation and construction project is scheduled for Jan. 25, with the next day as a snow date.