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Governor Wentworth Regional School District Year in Review

December 30, 2010
WOLFEBORO — While the Kingswood complex renovation and expansion project most definitely was not the only item of importance for the Governor Wentworth Regional School District in 2010, it was certainly the most talked about.

Given the Kingswood Arts Center dedication ceremony on Dec. 16 and the completion of Phase I of the project, the district has hit a milestone with the Kingswood renovation. The new, multi-million dollar facility is spacious, energy efficient, technologically advanced, and will provide opportunities for both students and the community for years to come.

Without too many hiccups the building took just shy of a year to complete (substantial completion) and was quickly put to use, housing a Holiday concert just two days after its grand opening.

Today the building is temporarily being utilized to provide classroom space for Kingswood Regional Middle School students while their building is being renovated. Students and staff alike can be proud of this state of the art facility that was completed on time and under budget.

Phase II of the project is currently underway. Renovation and expansions to the high school, middle school and vocational buildings are over 20 percent complete. While students and staff work around the construction and make accommodations for the ever-evolving project the bulk of the renovations will be done over the summer of 2011.

The district wrapped up a shortened 2009/10 school year (the school days were lengthened and vacations altered to make up for the decrease in the number of days) in May, allowing for North Branch Construction to optimize work while the space was vacant. A handful of members of the New England Carpenter's Union showed up across the street from the site in late May to protest the company "hiring subcontractors who do not use union labor." The group, who held signs and handed out leaflets, only stuck around for an afternoon, however, and when asked for a response from the district regarding the leafleting, Superintendent of Schools Jack Robertson replied in part that, "North Branch is an extremely forthright and responsible company that certainly deserves better than the criticism offered by this self-serving group."

The beginning of the 2010/11 school year in September brought with it valid worries by the Superintendent as well as parents and staff. With the complex doubling as a functioning school campus and evolving construction site, parking, traffic flow, and the safety of the students accessing the school buildings were all, and remain to be, of major concern.

Despite the worries the school year began without a hitch. However Robertson received some criticism when an early September heat wave forced him to call for a district-wide early dismissal during the very first week of school. The early release got attention from WMUR's Channel 9 news which reported that, "Releasing the students two hours early was a wise decision" due to a reduction in airflow resulting from construction procedures in combination with body heat, that left some of the classrooms stagnant and very hot.

Bullying policy

One serious issue that the district addressed in 2010 was that of bullying. One of the first major policies discussed by the board dealt with bullying and cyber bullying. While the board agreed that such a policy was very much needed, some of the members were upset with the way the policy was being enforced by the legislature, leaving very little room for districts to customize it to their own circumstances.

As board member Diane Drelick explained, "All of us (the Academic Affairs Committee) feel angry in a way that the legislature has enacted a law that says 'this is the policy you will enact, that you must enact' and we have no discretion at all in changing it or wording it however we want to. Instead of saying 'you need to have a policy on bullying,' they're saying this is your policy, this is what you must do."

The board voted to approve the policy "under protest." Though they all agreed the policy was a good concept, members felt that the way the policy was being enforced took away local control and allowed the board no leeway to make changes.

Several other steps have been taken to address the problem as well. The district has seen several cases of cyber-bullying at both the middle school and high school levels and had a Wolfeboro police officer give a informative talk at the middle school on the legal ramifications of cyber-bullying and warned students of the criminality involved. At the high school groups have been formed to find effective ways to teach the student population the negative effects of bullying and the best ways to deal with it. The district is also working with parent involvement in hopes of gaining more parental control on their child's Internet access and use.

An area where aggression is encouraged the first football game on the newly installed turf field (also part of Phase I) was held in early September as well. The game produced a large crowd who enjoyed the new bleachers and concessions stand in addition to the brightly lit NFL-standard field.

As the district begins the New Year it faces an increased budget; however, taxpayers can be sure to see that there money is going towards good use as the building project advances and nears completion, which is expected in the summer of 2012. While the students best interests remains the district's top priority, their safety and educational opportunities will remain a constant interest of the school board.

The public is encouraged to attend the district's annual Deliberative Session, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. in the new Kingswood Arts Center.

Heather Terragni can be reached at 569-3126 or hterragni@salmonpress.com

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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