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In Allenstown, voters approve building a new combined elementary-middle school

  • James Boisvert and Pauline Boisvert standing in line to get their ballots collected on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at St. John the Baptist Parish Hall in Allenstown. Melissa Curran—Monitor staff

  • Armand DuPont elementary school principal Shannon Kruger says some of the windows in the classrooms need to be replaced for energy efficiency. Kruger says the school had to shut down one day this winter because of the cold. GEOFF FORESTER

  • The school resource officer would split time between the middle school, called Armand R. Dupont School, and Allenstown Elementary School. NICK REID

Monitor staff
Published: 3/10/2021 3:37:03 PM

Allenstown School Board members joined School Superintendent Peter Warburton and concerned parents Tuesday night at St. John the Baptist Parish, waiting for the final tally on an unresolved issue that has been visible for years.

At stake on Election Day was a bold plan to close the two antiquated schools in town – Armand Dupont and Allenstown Elementary – and consolidate them into a yet-to-be-built school, serving kindergarten through 8th grade.

Just past 7 p.m., soon after the polls had closed, those gathered received word that, by an overwhelming vote of 480-261, Allenstown’s educational landscape would soon undergo a giant facelift.

If all goes as planned, the new school will open for the fall of 2023.

“We wanted to wait until it was confirmed before we reacted,” said Shannon Kruger, the principal at Armand Dupont and Allenstown Elementary Schools. “When I read we had gotten the three-fifths vote we needed, it was euphoria, it was absolutely amazing. Education just got a whole brighter for the kids of Allenstown.”

Article 1 on the school ballot for this SB2 town sought $32.5 million to buy 59 acres on River Road and build a brand new school there, a process that Kruger said will take about 18 months.

Now passed with an exclamation point, residents will be required to pay back a $13 million bond, while the other $19.5 million would come from a state building aid grant.

The town’s vote ends a debate that actually started well before residents agreed three years ago to study the potential for a new school.

“Many years ago we tried and failed by less than 10 votes to make this happen,” Kruger said. “For a lot of people who were here when that happened, there was a residual feeling that this could happen again, and then what would we do.”

For three years before COVID’s quarantining effect, the top school district officials cited the problems they and their students have been facing in recent years and continue to face during hybrid scheduling. Things like flooding and cold temperatures in classrooms are relatively common.

A series of public and private meetings ensued as costs and opinions were weighed during an arduous process. The issue had gathered the loudest buzz heading into Election Day.

Kruger said the town will benefit as well as the school children, adding that the new space would provide room for meetings and sports league activities, among other things.

“First and foremost, the concern is for students in K through 8,” Kruger said. “But we really think this will be something great for the community. There are ways the community can enjoy it.”

She continued: “This had been worked on since 2018, and either way we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. To hear that we got it passed, I woke up still pinching myself.”

The town’s high school students attend nearby Pembroke Academy.

There were no contested race in Allenstown. In other school matters, the town approved the proposed budget, $11.46 million, by a vote of 484-254. Residents also overwhelmingly agreed to contribute money to the town’s trust and capital reserve funds.

On the town side, the operating budget of $4.34 million passed by a 396-312 count.

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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