Students young and old are excited about Allentsown’s new school

  • Architect Doug Proctor of H.L. Turner Group puts up the renderings for the new Allenstown Elementary School before the groundbreaking Thursday.

  • The site for the new Allenstown Elementary School off of River Road off of Route 28 in Allenstown. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Allenstown Elementary principal Shannon Kruger gets everyone in position for the groundbreaking for the new school off of River Road in Allenstown on Thursday morning. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Allenstown elementary students line up around the groundbreaking area at the site of the new school off of River Road in Allenstown on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Allenstown Elementary principal Shannon Kruger gets everyone in position for the groundbreaking for the new school off of River Road in Allenstown on Thursday morning, June 2, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/2/2022 5:06:16 PM

Thinking of the greater good rather than just herself, Sami Cox is glad that the classroom doors at Allenstown’s new school will remain firmly in place.

She’s also happy that the elevator she’s been riding the past few years at Armand Dupont School will be gone, no longer feeling like a haunted house.

She’s entering Pembroke Academy this fall, yet she’s excited for the younger students who will attend Allenstown Community School, perhaps as early as next year.

Allenstown Elementary School, for grades Kindergarten through 4th grade, and Armand Dupont, which holds grades 5-8, will combine the students under one roof. Ground-breaking for the new Allenstown school occurred Thursday at 171 River Road.

While the elementary building is in better shape, the Dupont school features chipped paint and leaky pipes. Both buildings have hot and cold spots during different times of the year. Voters agreed it was time for an upgrade.

Soon, students will enjoy well-fitted classroom doors, and an elevator that runs smoothly and quietly. Not an elevator that squeaks and creeks and belongs in a Hitchcock thriller instead of a middle school.

“You can tell how old the elevator is by the sounds it makes,” said Cox, 14. “It was very loud, a very scary place to go into.”

Then there are the pop-up problems that need repair.

“The other day we had to fix a door because it was falling apart,” Cox said. “It was off its hinges and they had to take the entire door from its frame. It was very interesting to see.”

Cox emerged as an unselfish ambassador on Thursday. Principal Shannon Kruger read several students’ letters to the faculty and administrators and hundreds of children who gathered at the site, which featured a lot of dirt, a lot of rocks, a lot of trees and a bulldozer parked in the background.

Most of the letters were from students who will enjoy their new school. Cox, however, thought about the future of education in her hometown.

“It makes sense in our small town to have everyone in one big, new building,” Cox’s letter read. “I won’t get to go there, but I really think all the things for after-school activities and classes and resources will mean a better education for everyone. I am really happy for all the younger kids.”

Interviewed later, once the speeches and back-slapping had subsided, Cox added: “There are so many more things at this school. I want them to enjoy it. We may not have gotten this stuff, but it’s still amazing to see how this will work.”

Allenstown residents voted in favor of the project at Town Meeting in 2021 when they agreed to the $32.5 million needed for a new school. 

Residents agreed to pay back a $13 million bond. Meanwhile, the other $19.5 million will come from a state building aid grant. Once the new school is built, voters will be asked to take over the old elementary school for a new town hall, community center and business incubator space. 

The whole process has been arduous, including forming committees and scheduling meetings, hosting listening sessions, community forums, hiring consultants and contractors and surveyors, and sending building aid applications to the state Department of Education.

School superintendent Peter Warburton, who cut a tall, slender figure that towered above most of the hundreds of people who attended, said he hopes the school will be ready to open for the 2022-’23 school year. That date may be pushed back a few months because COVID and the pandemic’s unknown future slowed the process.

That, however, did little to dampen Warburton’s spirit.

“Very exciting,” Warburton said. “A long time for this process to take shape, and now here we are.”

He alluded to bumps in the road. 

“We had our ups and downs through the whole thing, but I really think the community looked at their buildings and said, ‘We have to do something,’ and we stuck with it,” he said.

All remaining construction permits are expected to be secured by next month, at which time more bulldozers will roll in. Steel for the project has been ordered and is expected to arrive in September.

The site on Thursday, a total of 59 acres, included 10 shovels planted in a pile of sand, waiting for the ceremonial scooping that included a little boy, school board members and other town officials.

They all wore white hard hats. Kruger directed traffic with a booming voice, amplified by a microphone and transmitted through several speakers.

The students arrived in yellow school buses, walking in a single file and congregating where the access road will one day lead cars onto school property, once passing a nearby chicken farm.

More trees will be cleared to make room for the actual building and athletic fields for soccer, softball and baseball.

Kruger said one student wrote that she felt “like a princess in a brand new castle.”

Another letter said, “I think everyone is going to move to Allenstown to go to our school.”

Still another said the gym and sports fields “will make it like a real school, or at least like the schools we get to play at. That is going to make me feel proud and happy to be at my new school.”

Cox won’t study there. She’ll be at Pembroke Academy by then. She didn’t seem to mind, though. At least not too much.

“I’m sad that I don’t get to see those things as a student,” Cox said. “But I’ll be back for community sorts of things, which I’m very, very excited to do.”

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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