Rundlett building project places fourth on priority list for state Building Aid

  • Citizens aligned with the initiative Rebuild at Rundlett are urging the Concord School District to rebuild the middle school on it's current South Street site instead of buying new land on Clinton Street. Rebuild at Rundlett

Monitor staff
Published: 11/10/2022 5:27:14 PM

Concord’s Rundlett Middle School building project has been ranked fourth out of 17 projects statewide, which calls into question how much, if any, state building aid the district will receive.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education approved a ranked list of school building projects, which prioritizes building aid in 2024 and 2025.

Concord’s middle school plan is currently ranked below projects in Rochester, Colebrook and Monadnock Regional School Districts.

“Based on our strong project proposal, I hoped the N.H. Department of Education would have ranked the Concord middle school project higher,” School Board President Jim Richards said Thursday. “However, we will continue to strongly pursue State Building Aid funding for this project, which is so important for our children and the Concord community.”

Kearsarge Regional School District also submitted an aid application for a new technical education and science and technology wing at its high school. Their project was ranked number 13 out of 17.

Schools won’t know the actual funding amount they’re getting until the appropriations are finalized in the state budget, but the rankings list gives them a sneak peek of where they stand.

Gregory Hill, chairman of the Department of Education’s School Building Authority, told board members it is likely only three projects will receive aid, due to a limited amount of funding. Hill estimates there is $70 million available in school building aid funds to allocate to school districts, while the Department of Education has received requests that total $564 million.

“We can see the possibility of only three of these 17 projects fully funded,” Hill said.

Concord’s project is the most expensive, with an estimated cost of $176 million. Because it qualifies for a 40% aid rate, the estimated aid amount is $70 million, which could eat up all of the available funding.

Districts are ranked for school building aid based on numerical scores from multiple categories, such as unsafe conditions for fire safety or structure, ADA accessibility, overcrowding and operational efficiency. Concord had the fourth-highest score, accruing most of its points in the categories of “maintenance,” “security updates,” “energy and resource efficient” and “unsafe conditions- traffic.”

Concord Business Administrator Jack Dunn said Thursday that it’s still too early to tell if this ranking will impact the timeline of the Rundlett building project. He said he plans to discuss options, including state aid and bonds, with the Concord School Board at its next meeting.

Dunn said there are a couple of scenarios that he would like to be prepared for, including if one or more of the projects ahead of Concord doesn’t get their project approved by their community and also if the cap on building aid is lifted through legislation allowing more building aid to be appropriated than the maximum that is currently permitted.

“I think there’s still a lot of open questions on it,” Dunn said. “We’ll keep moving forward and be ready if the opportunity prevails, financially to move forward.”

All the funding allocations will hinge on whether each district’s project is approved by its community. Amy Clark, administrator for the Department of Education’s Bureau of School Facilities, described it as a “chicken and egg scenario,” where the state can’t guarantee funding to districts until they know it’s been okayed by the community, yet districts can’t hold a community vote unless they trust that funding is coming.

“The reality is, we have no idea whether any or all of these 17 projects are sufficiently supported in the respective communities, or whether they agreed to pass a bond vote,” Hill said. “The process currently does not require any indication of community support.”

Concord’s building project is still in its planning phases, and a location for the project has not yet been finalized. One location that had been considered previously, a parcel of land on Clinton Street owned by the CenterPoint Church, is now off the table after the church congregation voted not to sell in October.

Concord school officials will be discussing the future of the Rundlett Middle School building project at a community forum Nov. 16 that will be hosted by the Concord Greenspace Coalition. The forum w ill be facilitated by Carisa Corrow of Educating for Good from 6 to 8 p.m. at the City Wide Community Center on Canterbury Road.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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