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School board tours Kingswood complex construction

THE KINGSWOOD MEDIA CENTER, a combined new facility for both the high and middle schools, was one of the more finished areas visited by school board members during their tour of the Kingswood construction project last Monday evening, Aug. 15, (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
August 18, 2011
WOLFEBORO — While the district's students will remain on summer break, some longer than others, the Governor Wentworth Regional School Board's recess ended on Monday, Aug. 15 when its members convened at the Kingswood Arts Center for their first meeting of the school year, followed by a tour of phase II construction on the Kingswood campus.

Regardless of the rain and muddy ground the board (some in heels) excitedly followed Bruce Blazon, general superintendent for North Branch Construction, around the site for Phase II of the Kingswood renovation and expansion project.

Dodging rebar, scaling construction ladders, and hopping over expansion joints the board and a few others were offered a look inside some of the ever-evolving buildings.

To the average person the scope of the project is jaw-dropping. From the 30 miles of cable and wires that have to be run to the installation of 530 new doors, the complexity and coordination of all the different aspects of phase II, not to mention the constant relocation and rearranging of storage space for materials as rooms near completion, it's clear Blazon and his crew of almost 300 workers have their work cut out for them.

While the Kingswood project remains on target for the Sept. 19 opening, both schools will be far from complete when the students arrive on their first day. Much of the high school will still be under construction and only the second floor and cafeteria/kitchen areas of the middle school will be 100 percent.

Sharing their time between the completed parts of the schools and the temporary classrooms set up in the Kingswood Arts Center, students and staff will need to continue to be flexible throughout the year as North Branch Construction workers set priorities with school principals Guy Donnelly and Rusty Ross.

The magnitude of what has been done and what still needs to be done is evident upon entering the buildings, which are completed from the top, down.

"If you see ceiling gridwork, it's a good sign," joked Blazon who certainly puts in much more than the average 40-hour work week during what he refers to as the "summer slam."

The interior of each building looks so different that it's very disorienting. From new construction areas, to renovation areas, to turn-over areas, it's only the large open spaces like the high school cafeteria (now expanded into what was the library) and the middle school gymnasium (now full size) that keep a person in tune to their whereabouts.

While some areas are under major construction mode or completely gutted, the more completed areas are looking like state of the art quality.

Fresh "Kingswood green" and white paint provides continuity throughout the large classrooms, music rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias and hallways. Rooms are spacious and each has added technology and features such as motion sensitive lighting, appropriate acoustics, skylights, and storage space.

Perhaps the most breathtaking so far is the new common media room that will serve both the middle school and high school. The large south facing windows and woodwork create a space much like that found at a university that is sure to be popular among the students and staff alike.

For now however, "the challenge we have in getting school open is much less getting rooms ready that we need," said Superintendent Jack Robertson of the progress, "it is about getting the other systems and the rest of the site ready so there are no life safety issues."

As the first day of school approaches, making the site safe for students, staff and the construction workers has become a priority. This includes inside the buildings as well as out.

Drivers passing by may have noticed the bus route has been paved and curbed in front of the high school. The exact traffic flow and egress plan, which is agreed on by the fire department and the town's building inspector, is expected to be different. When the specifics have been determined the public will be made aware of the changes for student drop off and pick up.

Board members continue to be thankful to the taxpayers and workers that have made both phases I and II possible. North Branch Construction's performance and dedication to the project remain to be "above and beyond," said Robertson.

Board business

The price of hot lunch in the middle school and high school has been raised by five cents to $2.30.

Mary Patry, the district's business administrator, said that because of a new federal government policy under the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which requires all school districts to gradually increase their school lunch prices to match the amount being reimbursed to the district for the free and reduced lunch program, Governor Wentworth would need to increase either the elementary or secondary school lunch price by five cents.

To meet the guideline the average lunch price will eventually need to total $2.46; however, with this year's increase the average will be at $2.15. The $2 price for elementary students will remain the same for now.

Superintendent Jack Robertson said that similar to the lunch price increase, when it comes to the state's budget and senate bills, "everything is relative."

He explained how at the start of the new fiscal year July 1 the retirement rate for teachers was set at 13.95 percent, however, about two weeks ago that was reduced to 11.09 percent, which makes a huge difference to the district.

"It's still more than we budgeted, but we're at least now in the ballpark to being able to pay for that," he explained. The district will be looking at money saved through hiring, attrition, and other areas to come up with the money.

However the whole senate bill is in litigation, he reminded the board, so really nothing is certain.

Three policies were presented for a first reading. One was created according to new guidelines from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB 54), which mandates new rules in the reporting of the fund balance for school districts and municipalities.

In the past, Patry explained, the district has always done a reserved fund balance and an unreserved fund balance, but now must classify funds into one of five categories; non-expendable, restrictive, committed, assigned, and unassigned.

The new policy states that the district will adhere to GASB 54 state requirements.

The language was reviewed in two more policies regarding service animals and public conduct on school property. A second reading will be held at the board's September meeting.

Now in addition to viewing taped board meetings and school events on local television channel 25 Peter Pijoan of Wolfeboro Community Television announced that the station would be streaming all of its programs on the internet as well.

All of the towns in the district will be able to view what is taped in the schools by WCTV 25 whether it be a board meeting, athletic event or holiday concert, explained Pijoan, by visiting www.wolfeborocommunitytelevision.com and clicking on "links." Sponsored by Maxfield Real Estate, the streaming will make board meetings more accessible. A link to the WCTV 25 Web site may also be added to the school district's Web site in order to promote awareness of this viewing option.

The Governor Wentworth Regional School Board will meet next at Ossipee Central School on Monday, Sept. 12, beginning at 7 p.m.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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