Gilford student count up for first time in 15 years

GILFORD — Superintendent Ken Hemingway told the School Board last week and the Selectboard last night that an unanticipated jump in the kindergarten enrollment led the district to hire a sixth kindergarten teacher this school year.

Hemingway said this is the first time in 15 years the Gilford School District has seen an increase in enrollment and the kindergarten enrollment of 82 students contrasts with 68 new students last year — a 17-percent increase.

"We had the space because we've seen declining enrollments and the board gave us permission to hire an additional teacher," Hemingway said in a phone interview yesterday.

He also said the cost (about $70,000 including benefits and retirement) must be taken from their existing budget so there is some shifting and pinching in other line items.

In addition, at the September 8 selectman's meeting, Town Planner John Ayer told the board that new residential single-family housing permits went from 11 last year to 24 for this year or an increase of 118-percent. While this is not necessarily indicative of the increase in the number of families with school-age children, it is indicative of a growing economy that could include more young people living in Gilford.

Hemingway also said a "huge" bubble in Gilmanton elementary and middle school populations is working its way toward adding high school students to Gilford's enrollment. He said he expects the ratio of Gilford to Gilmanton students could approach 65-percent Gilford to 35-percent Gilmanton. The high school has traditionally been 70-percent Gilford to 30-percent Gilmanton.

These 82 kindergarteners will, of course, move through the grades at Gilford Elementary, meaning some potential changes could need to be made to teacher assignments as this class moves through the system. Hemingway said it is too soon to know if this is a "bubble" or if it is a continuing trend and it's too early to estimate the size of next year's kindergarten class.

At 82 students, the kindergarten class is the largest class at Gilford Elementary School. This year there are 70 first graders, 68 second graders, 69 third graders and 75 fourth graders. Overall there are 27 more children in the elementary school than there were last year.

At Gilford Middle School there are 14 more students than there were last year and the eighth grade class has 83 students. Added to the 50 students expected to come from Gilmanton next year, this means there could be a freshman class at GHS that numbers around 133 students. This year's freshman class has a 109 students so the district is looking at a potential increase in school year 2016-2017 of 22-percent.

Enrollments at Gilford High School this year are down by 27 students from last year and the senior class will graduate 124 students in June so a projected overall increase in high school population is nine students or from 511 this year to a projected 520 next year.

Total enrollment for Gilford School District is 1,208 students as of opening day. Last year the school had 1,194, in 2013-14 there were 1,201 and in 2012-13 there were 1,230.

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Owner withdraws request to use former Weirs church as storage facility

LACONIA — Peter Morrissette, the principal of PEM Real Estate, LLC, the owner of the former St. Helena Mission Church at the Weirs, has withdrawn his request to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance entitling him to use the building as a storage facility, leaving the future of the property in limbo. .
Morrissette said yesterday that there were "political reasons" for his decision, adding only that "some people have said things they should not have said." As for the future of the property, he said "I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I'm just in a holding pattern."
Morrissette acquired the 3.38-acre property, which is in the shorefront residential zoning district, last December for $185,000. At the time, he said that he had no specific plans for the property, but intended to explore its residential development. The zoning ordinance would permit six single-family homes or 20 condominium units to be built on the lot.
However, in February Morrissette asked the City Council to change the city's zoning ordinance to allow boat and watercraft storage in the shorefront residential district. The council refused. In June, Morrissette applied to the ZBA for a variance from the ordinance prohibiting both "indoor storage" and "warehousing" in the shorefront residential district.
When the ZBA held a public hearing on the request for the variance in July a number of residents of the adjacent Pendleton Beach neighborhood strongly urged the ZBA to deny it, claiming that using the abandoned church as a storage facility would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties. The matter was continued until September and in the interim Morrissette withdrew his request.

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Busy Corner building being renovated by Smokers Haven

LACONIA — The Lefebrve Building at 245 Union Avenue will soon become the fourth outlet of Smokers Haven, a group of stores with an extensive inventory catering to the diverse tastes of those who smoke or vape.

The 3,129-square-foot building at the corner of Winter Street, with an unfinished upper story of 2,340-square-feet, was constructed in 1935 and was last home to Rent-A-Cente, which moved downtown four years ago. It was recently purchased by Brett Scott, a 22 year old entrepreneur, for $130,000 and is undergoing a thorough renovation and remodeling in anticipation of the business opening in November. The store will join outlets in Manchester, Nashua and Epsom, all owned an operated by Scott, who also in the principal of Excel Realty Investments, LLC. .

The inventory of what might be described as a "head shop" will range from the conventional to the exotic to include tobacco, cigarettes, rolling papers, pipes, water pipes, vaporizers, electric cigarettes, incense and various other accessories. The store will also house a hookah lounge, or shisha bar, where patrons can enjoy as many as 100 flavors of mu'assel or shisha, a syrupy tobacco mix laced with molasses and flavored with fruits, herbs an even gummy bears.

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