Back to class

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Miss Sapack and her kindergarten students were prepared and ready to start their first day of school at Elm Street Elementary School in Laconia Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Students start school with new teachers, new principal at Laconia High School 


LACONIA — School district administrators were busy over the summer finding more than a dozen new teachers to replace instructors who left after last school year.

There was a full complement of teachers on hand when students returned to class Thursday, Assistant Superintendent Amy Hinds said.

“We did have some staff that chose to go to other school districts and a number of faculty retired,” she said. “We did have openings at all levels and we were able to fill all those positions.

“The new contract helped in recruiting.”

That 5-year contract, which went into effect July 1, included significant raises for teachers. By the end of the pact, their salary is expected to be at or above compensation levels in most other districts in the area.

One of those who left was New Hampshire Teacher of the Year Tate Aldrich, who earned $39,700 annually as chairman of the English department at Laconia High School. He took a position at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro paying $51,500.

The district had hoped to hire a new teacher who would allow Laconia High School to reopen its wood shop and offer woodworking as an elective course for students.

However, no appropriate candidate for the position was found, Hinds said. Schools offer fewer such classes than they used to, and it is difficult to find a qualified teacher to run a woodshop course, she said.

“We had a few candidates but they just weren't a good fit or didn't accept the position,” Hinds said.

She said there has been demand for such a class, which could also prove valuable for students wishing to get early exposure to building trades. Students who had signed up for the class were shifted to other courses.

There is a new principal at the high school this year. Michael Fredericksen was hired at a salary of $108,500 to succeed David Bartlett, who left to become an assistant principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord. Fredericksen was an interim assistant superintendent in the Nashua School District.

The high school has about 570 students this year, which is part of an overall student population in the district of about 2,000, including children attending pre-kindergarten.

That's about the same number as a year ago, but is down about 300 students from a decade ago.

09 01 first day of kindergarten Karen B

Mitchell Day is all smiles with his mom, Sarah Lamontagne. Day began his first day of kindergarten on his 5th birthday. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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More parking seen as key to keeping Meredith library in place

MEREDITH — Additional parking at the rear of the Meredith Public Library is seen as one of the key elements of improving the historic library in its current location.
Jack Carty, a member of the Meredith Library Improvement Feasibility Study Advisory Committee, said the willingness of the Price family to sell the property it owns directly behind the library to the town would enable the library to add 35 parking spaces and make it more accessible to the public.
Last week, the committee voted 5-3 to accept a conceptual plan, submitted by Samyn-D’Elia Architects of Ashland, which shows a portico being constructed over a new rear entrance at the back of the building. Carty said he supports the proposal because he felt it was the most functional.
The current rear parking lot, which provides ground level access to the building, has space for only eight vehicles.
Voters at Town Meeting appropriated $50,000 to investigate what can be done to improve the public library at its current location.
Selectmen appointed the committee on May 1. It is chaired by Andy Lane with at-large members Carty, Rusty McLear, Jeanie Forrester, and Ed Touhey, with Paula Wanzer serving as the alternate. Library trustees Jim McFarland and Pam Coburn and selectmen Raymond Moritz and Jonathan James also serve on the committee.
Library trustees have been wrestling with building needs for six years, after learning that the third-floor children and young adult balcony area did not meet current life-safety codes. The area is accessible by a steep, narrow staircase, and several other sections of the library also do not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Through the years, the trustees have compiled several reports and evaluations, including looking at ways the library might expand. They originally looked at purchasing the church next door, but the congregation has decided to remain there for the time being. Trustees also looked at other sites and had supported building a new, 14,000-square-foot building on another site.
The most promising of the other sites was the Robertson property at the intersection of Route 3 and Parade Road. Consultant Ron Lamarre estimated it would cost $3.15 million to build a 14,000-square-foot library. The current library has 7,800 square feet.
The trustees’ decision aroused the concern of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which in 2014 awarded the library a $70,000 matching grant to make repairs to the building. Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Program wrote to Beverly Heyduk, who chairs the board of trustees, to say that her “board members were taken aback to learn of the possible plan to relocate the library.” In her letter, Taylor cited the library’s grant application, which carried “the clear message... that the building will continue as the public library in its current location for many years to come.” She closed by strongly urging the library trustees to reconsider their decision.
The LCHIP program last year listed the Meredith Library as one of its Seven to Save historic buildings.
The Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library was dedicated in 1901 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was described as “not only Meredith’s finest public building, but also one of the Lakes Region’s most attractive libraries.”

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Feds OK $2.4M in credits for Colonial Theatre

08 31 Colonial Theatre 1980

This is how the Colonial Theatre looked in the mid 1980s prior to the subdivision into several smaller theaters. In this picture, you can also see all of the decorative plaster ornamentation along the balcony face, none of which remains today. The architect does have examples of each type of plaster ornament, from which they will be able to make molds and replicate the balcony look. (Courtesy photo)


LACONIA — The National Park Service has approved $2.4 million in federal historic tax credits for renovation of the 103-year-old Colonial Theatre, project leaders said Wednesday.
Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said this is a key ingredient in the funding package to refurbish the ornate structure.
The development council is using a mix of state, federal, city and donor funds to bring the theater back to life. A large out-of-state bank has committed to acquire the historic tax credits.
“This is one of the biggest historic preservation projects in state history,” Slattery said.
In order to qualify for historic tax credits, architects must show that the refurbished theater will accurately reflect how the structure once looked. Ultimately, it is to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Peter Michaud, of the state Division of Historical Resources, praised the planning work that has gone into a project that is to have a positive economic impact on the city and the region.
“The Colonial is an impressive theater complex in both size and finish that includes retail space, residential space, and a theater lobby and house with plaster, paint finishes, and fresco work in need of thoughtful conservation,” he said. “From the very start of this project, I have been impressed with the sensitive care and research used by the city and community of Laconia, the Belknap Economic Development Council, and the project design and construction teams in the planning of this theater’s rehabilitation.”
Jared A. Guilmett, an architect on the project, said it’s not easy to make a structure look historically accurate while meeting modern building standards.
“We are bringing back a historic quality to the space, but not creating a false sense of history,” he said. “For example, in the theater we have existing mechanical vents in the ceiling. The original wood vents pulled air up to cool the space. We can’t replicate a wooden grill in the ceiling to match, so we have to make it noticeably different, but still aesthetically it has to work with the historic fabric so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.”
The floor of the seating area also took some careful consideration. Theaters of that era had steep inclines and were not designed for people in wheelchairs. The solution was to introduce a new aisle to meet modern standards.
The theater includes murals and other elements that have faded or deteriorated and must be pain-stakingly rehabilitated.
In order to create a finished project that hews to the original design, old photos of the structure’s interior and exterior were solicited from the public.
“We have pictures of the inside of the building where we get to see textures and material, floor patterns in the carpet, beadboard walls, painted walls,” he said. “A conservator on the team went through and took samples, photos and plaster chips.”
The city provided a loan of $1.4 million to buy the theater. Repayment was extended Monday to Dec. 31. Construction work on the building won’t start until Jan. 1 at the earliest. The city will continue to collect $4,000 per month in loan interest.
When construction financing is finalized, the loan is to be repaid and the city is to grant a new one in the amount of $3 million, which can be rolled over into ownership of the theater after seven years.
After it opens, the city is to pay $120,000 yearly to rent the theater. Project organizers are also expecting $5 million in federal New Markets tax credits, designed to foster economic development.
The overall project cost, including design fees and real estate purchase, is estimated at more than $16 million.
The project, part of an effort to revitalize the downtown core, is also to include 14 market-rate apartments and four retail spaces.


08 31 Colonial Theatre Chandelier 1

This is one of the historic chandeliers still hanging in the Colonial Theatre today. Architect Jared Guilmett said, “We are fortunate to have five of the seven original chandeliers, which will be restored and will illuminate the space once again.” (Courtesy photo)

08 31 Colonial pre restoration

In this shot, you can see original damask wall paintings, figural frescoes above the box seats, and some examples of the decorative gilded plaster. Through sampling and lab analysis, they have been able to identify the original colors and will be able to fully restore all of the art work and painting to its original, or near original, schemes. (Courtesy photo)

08 31 Colonial mural

A closer look at the artwork to be restored. (Courtesy photo)

08 31 Colonial Theatre Historic Certification documentation

This is a large portion of the documentation that has been compiled for conversations with and application to the state Division of Historical Resources and the National Parks Service. There are hundreds of pages of narrative text describing the building and its history, describing new and restorative work to be done to the building, alongside material assessment. They have around 50 images of the theater, and a multitude of newspaper articles, which outline a near complete historic timeline of the building and its users. (Courtesy photo)