Hampstead school officials had higher hopes for government building aid | New Hampshire

HAMPSTEAD – The New Hampshire Board of Education ranked Hampstead Central School 8th on its list of 17 school buildings prioritized for financial aid. However, the placement may not be high enough to see significant funds.

The construction projects included in the summary vary in size, with estimated funding ranging from $660,926 for a building addition to $70.5 million for a new elementary school.

Hampstead’s application proposed an estimated project cost of $7 million but requested $2.5 million in government support.

The project consists of the construction of two new, two-story buildings that will house administrative offices, classrooms and a new library and other remodeled standing space to better serve special education.

In a press release announcing the rankings, the New Hampshire Department of Education said about $49 million could be available for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 — if construction assistance is fully funded.

This money will be distributed based on the order of the new leaderboard.

Hampstead School Board Chair David Smith said the ranking was lower than county officials wanted.

“We don’t see it as favorable for us,” he said.

The rankings were determined using criteria such as school safety, unsafe conditions, free and discounted lunch programs, and the like.

Smith said Hampstead performs worse than school districts in these categories.

Hampstead Superintendent Bob Thompson said the school district has not traditionally had many students with free or discounted lunches — which is the highest category for awarding points.

Smith worries that government funding will be depleted among the seven schools before Central School.

The school project has yet to be approved by local voters in March’s general election. This year’s attempt will be number 9 after several near wins.

Smith said if warrant articles aren’t passed in other cities, it would increase Hampstead’s chances of getting help.

“If four out of eight don’t pass it, maybe we’re in a better position,” he said. “Eight isn’t a good place to be when you look at how New Hampshire funds its construction aid.”

If help isn’t available and the school board’s warrant for renovations stands, Smith said the school will remain on the list for the following year.

The board is not giving up hope of making this project a success and will work to identify areas where costs can be reduced to make the project more attractive to voters if they don’t get help.

“We’re still looking for other ways to balance our costs,” Smith said.

The school board will look at other grants, such as energy-efficient ones, to lower the price for voters once they get the final cost of the project in just over a week.

The costs have already been reduced. The project’s design included a new sewage system, but this was recently eliminated because the current system was deemed cheap.

“We did our best and scored as many points as we could,” said Smith. “We will continue to do everything we can to lower the price for the community.”

Thompson sees the ranking as disappointing, but he hopes the community sees the value of the overall project.

Thompson emphasized, “The project’s focus on needed improvements in the areas of safety, special education and student learning is worth considering.”