Possible locations selected for Rundlett Middle School

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 07-11-2023 6:33 PM

After months of exploring sites, the Concord School District has narrowed down potential locations to construct a new middle school to two sites.

At the school board meeting on Monday night, members discussed the project’s viability at two very different locations within the city, including on the current grounds of Rundlett Middle School, which has a 20-acre area for the construction of a new school; and a 56-acre parcel of raw land on South Curtisville Road, near Broken Ground School and Mill Brook School.

To ensure the viability of these sites for construction, both pieces of land will need to pass soil tests to determine their suitability. The results of these engineering studies will play a crucial role in determining the feasibility of constructing a new school at each location.

Matt Cashman, the director of facilities and planning, explained that in the event that the soil tests confirm the suitability of the South Curtisville Road site, a larger acreage offers more opportunities for development.

“You have both sides of the river where you would have field space, play space and community space because that school will be the new middle school and Broken Ground will work the same,” said Cashman, highlighting how the location has the added benefit of equity by being on the other side of the Merrimack River.

However, concerns were raised about the potential distance to athletic fields if the school were to be built on the South Curtisville Road parcel.

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“We all know that we don’t want middle schoolers traveling away from campus to go to a practice or game as much as we can possibly not have it; kind of keep them close,” said School Board member said,

Additional concerns were expressed regarding safety and the loss of open spaces if the school were to be built on the South Curtisville Road parcel.

Concord resident Claire Michlovitz said she is worried about the safety of children, pointing out the observed traffic patterns when children are dropped off in the morning at elementary schools along South Curtisville Road.

“Once they drop the children off, they fly back up South Curtisville Road,” said Michlovitz.

Ellen Kenny, a teacher at Broken Ground School who frequently spends time in the nearby woods. 

“I feel very strongly about the green space in Concord being one of the real selling points that we have as a community,” Kenny said.

She acknowledged the district’s predicament of choosing between a small site and a larger undeveloped parcel but stressed the importance of ensuring residents have access to wild spaces within the city.

Last year, the Concord School District was willing to pay $3.5 million for a parcel of land owned by CenterPoint Church on Clinton Street before the church congregation rejected the proposal. The projected costs included $32,750,000 for planning and design costs and $104,531,701 for construction, on top of money spent on land acquisition and clearing. Concord applied for state building aid but other districts received a higher priority for immediate funding.

Concord School District officials first announced their interest in purchasing the church’s land in March 2022. While not a binding  agreement, the letter marked the start of negotiations that the district hoped would lead to a purchase of the 38-acre property to build a new Rundlett Middle School building. But in October 2022, members of the CenterPoint Church congregation voted against moving forward to sell the land.

The district was going to partner with the YMCA and include workout space and a gym in the design that would be open to Y members. Monday’s discussion made no mention of the YMCA. 

A group of residents opposed the project and generated the slogan “Rebuild at Rundlett.”

The next steps for the school district are to hold public hearings to give an update on the project and receive public input before a decision on the site location is made by the end of September.

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