Laconia — School Superintendent Terri Forsten will sound the City Council tonight about the prospect of the School District accepting a $1.8 million loan bearing no interest, with the proceeds dedicated to renovations and improvements designed to "enhance classroom teaching, increase graduation rates, improve employment opportunities and better prepare students for the workplace or higher education".
Laconia was the only school district in the state to express interest in the Qualified Zone Academy Bond, or QZAB, which is awarded by the federal government and administered by the New Hampshire Department of Education. To qualify more than 35-percent of the students enrolled in the district must be eligible for free or reduced lunch, a threshold Laconia (at 53 percent) easily exceeds. In addition, funding requires a local match of 10 percent, creation of a so-called "zone academy" and collaboration with community partners.
The district recently borrowed $6.5 million in the form of a QZAB as part of the financing package for renovations of Laconia High School and the Huot Regional Technical Educaiton Center. To qualify, the district established a "wellness academy," which would ensure its eligibility for a second loan.
Earlier this month Malcolm Murray, member of the Facilities Committee of the School Board, presented the board with a prioritized list of renovations and improvements at the high school, which could be undertaken with the funds. The highest priorities are health and safety issues, including installation of a sprinkler, heat recovery ventilation and radon removal systems and removal of asbestos. The list also included replacing or repairing suspended ceilings in classrooms and aluminum panels on exterior windows as well as removing carpeting from corridors.
The council must approve the interest payments of $78,260 per year for 23 years beginning in 2015. In order to comply with the limits of the tax cap, the council has sought to keep annual principal and payments on borrowings to approximately $3.2-million.