Article calling for placement of modular classroom on Gilmanton School campus remains on warrant

GILMANTON — Voters at Saturday's deliberative session of annual Town Meeting had a lot of things to say about adding a temporary two-room modular building to the Gilmanton School campus but the $133,661 warrant article that calls for a $95,448 expenditure next school year will go a March 11 vote as presented. The balance of $38,213 would be spent over four subsequent school years.

The article calls for the 5-year lease/purchase of a used modular that will cost $26,732 annually. An additional $68,716 was added to the amount to be raised and appropriated this year for installation and hookup.

The Gilmanton School Board supports the article while the Budget Committee does not.

Budget Committee Chair Brian Forst said the vote against supporting the modular was not unanimous. He said that committee members recognized the need for additional space, however he said they wanted to see multiple options presented instead of just one calling for the modular unit.

Forst added that there were some concerns about a lease-to-buy contract for a used, albeit reconditioned, building.

Superintendent Jahn Fauci said yesterday the modular is completely reconditioned and a corridor will be built as a connector from the main school to it.

School Board minutes from January say the modular comes with white boards and other school-related fixtures but will need to be furnished and hooked up to utilities. The district estimates it will use about $3,000 annually in electricity and heat.

The modular has no bathrooms. While the exact plan for its use is not complete because it has not yet been approved by voters, minutes suggest one room will be used for administration and the other room will be used for a classroom for older students.

As of January, Gilmanton School has 403 students — up from the 398 reflected in the December minutes.

The smallest classes are in fourth, fifth and sixth grades while the largest classes are kindergarten at 51, first grade at 48, and 50 in second grade.

The population of Gilmanton, according to the 2010 census was 3,777 people — up 717 from the 3,060 recorded in 2000 or 23-percent — suggesting the town is one of the fastest growing communities in the Lakes Region.

School administrators told the Budget Committee in January that in this school year, two teachers have been moved to "rolling" classrooms — meaning they do not have classrooms of their own but must use a cart to bring their teaching materials to the students.

As to the future, Forst said he will be serving as the Budget Committee representative to the recently formed Space Needs Committee that is comprised of members of the community, two school board members, school administrators, two teachers, two parents, and a member of the Planning Board. It is tasked with performing a historical evaluation of the population of the district as it relates to the school system and incorporating demographic studies to help administrators develop a long-range plan for Gilmanton School.

"We need to start long-term planning now," said Forst yesterday. He noted that in 10 years the contract for sending high school students to Gilford expires and while 10 years seems like a long time — it's not when it comes to planning for education infrastructure.

Next year's budget, said Fauci, factors in 163 Gilmanton students who will attend Gilford High School at a cost of $17,425 each. He said dollar amount per student is about the same as it was last year and down almost $1,000 per student from the initial budget planning figures given to Gilmanton by Gilford. This school year there are 140 students from Gilmanton.

He said the budget was reduced by about $170,000 meaning the final proposed budget for school year 2014-2015 of $9.6 million is up about $5,000 from the current year's budget.