Opinion: My case for building the middle school on South Street

Rundlett Middle School, looking down a hallway of sixth-grade classrooms.

Rundlett Middle School, looking down a hallway of sixth-grade classrooms. Monitor file


Published: 11-27-2023 6:00 AM

Betty Hoadley lives in Concord and has been associated with the Concord School District for nearly 50 years.

The day draws nearer when the Concord School Board must decide if the new Rundlett middle school building will be in the Broken Ground area or on South Street. December 6 is D-Day, Decision Day.

As a taxpayer for six decades and an educator with varied jobs, here are the reasons that I believe the better choice is to build the new middle school at the present middle school site on South Street.

First of all, the South Street location has its walk zones already established and they have been working well for many years. This work was all done prior to the change to a middle school back in 1997-1998. This was the year that sixth grade moved to Rundlett and the ninth-grade students moved to Concord High School. Rundlett became a middle school. The signal lights at South Fruit Street and Clinton Street were installed as a part of the plan for traffic flow and student safety.

School start and stop times were determined. The residents near the school seem to like the school right where it is. On the other hand, residents on the Heights have been very vocal about the traffic that would be increased by the addition of a third and larger school in the Broken Ground area. Traffic is already a problem for residents and state employees with the present two schools. The safety of children walking to school there has been clearly questioned.

There has been map after map of recreational and sport areas at the two locations. Of course, the expansive site at Broken Ground has enough space to put up a circus, while the South Street site is somewhat more limited. It seems that determined adults could find fields for outside physical education and after-school sports activities with all the fields within a short distance.

What we do know about the South Street location is that it is located near a huge asset, the district-owned White Farm on Clinton Street. This area was an integral part of Project SEE, which celebrated 50 years of service in 2020. The name of Edwina Czajkowski will forever be associated with that award-winning program.

I believe that placing the students at Broken Ground is a modified exile for three years. What are the students learning about the city, the city center, with all its services and purpose? Is there not considerable advantage to locating the students closer to the public library, the police headquarters, Concord High School, Memorial Field, the City Hall, the State House, and a yet-to-be-created Abbot-Downing museum celebrating the Concord coaches?

I will be even bolder and suggest that the middle school staff plan an “enhanced curriculum” that takes advantage of these inner-city sites and build that into their curriculum at each grade level. I would propose that the sixth grade develop interdisciplinary topics and use every resource there is at White Farm. I would propose that seventh graders would be explorers of the historic, service, civic and legislative organizations that are housed in the inner-city center. I believe there can be more and better transition events for the eighth graders soon to become students at Concord High School.

Finally, consider the implications of leaving the forested area under consideration as it is. Add that action to the long list of opportunities to give our planet a chance to survive. Yes, there will be school facilities challenges again. We don’t, however, know when or where they will occur. Cinch up our belts and deal with the very few drawbacks that rebuilding the middle school on South Street may present but leave the pristine Broken Ground for students and residents to enjoy until the next facilities adjustment comes along.

And that is my “case for building the middle school on South Street.” If you want to weigh in with your opinion, send an email (JRichards@SAU8.org) or use an envelope and stamp and address your opinion to Chairman Jim Richards (38 Liberty Street, Concord, NH 03301.) Include the ward you live in if you wish to make a particular point.

Taxpayers, take note. This is the biggest cost ever contemplated by the Concord School District. Concord voters just voted for municipal and school leaders. Now do your duty once more and communicate your ideas about the middle school project to the nine members of the school board that you put in office in the last three years. And if there is a substantial difference when the comparative final costs of the two sites are revealed, this fiscal conservative is willing to make a 180-degree switch in opinion.