GILMAN — Costly issues at the Gilman School, including a need for a significant mold remediation project in the basement, and improvements to make the building accessible for people with disabilities, has Kingdom East School District officials looking at a possible shuttering of the school’s middle grades program, and moving those students to Concord School.
Needed repairs and investment at the Gilman School are estimated to cost at least $555,000, the members of the district’s facilities committee were told during a recent meeting by Facilities Director Marc Brown.
Ideas for re-purposing parts of the building for an early child care program and/or a senior center, since the Gilman senior program closed, have been raised as ways to put the building into productive use for the community.
A report on the idea for possibly moving Gilman School’s 45 students to Concord — and the state of the building and possibly closing Gilman as a school — was submitted by Superintendent Jen Botzojorns.
Brown participated in a recent meeting where that report was discussed. The research report was on the committee work being done in school buildings, and to bring Gilman School up to a healthy and safe environment and equitable offerings such as a maker-space that will cost more than $550,000.
In Botzojorns’s 6-page report updating the facilities needs for the district, she touched on another challenge being faced by the deteriorating Gilman School facility: attrition. The school, as well as Sutton School, have seen challenges in trying to retain and attract experienced, qualified personnel in high need positions (nursing, special education, math and science) at the middle school level.”
A challenge faced by some schools, including Gilman, is to provide “academic opportunities available and equitable to all students (maker space, technology),” Botzojorns noted.
The unified school district which formed in 2018 under Act 46 (the 2015 statewide school district consolidation law) serves pupils from the towns of Burke, Concord, Lunenburg, Lyndon, Newark, Sheffield, Sutton and Wheelock.
The district presented its first-ever construction bond to voters a year ago, and it was decisively shot down. That bond called for some $24 million in investment in the Burke, Concord and Lunenburg schools.
A community planning process had begun this winter with hopes to bring a bond vote to the towns once again, likely at the November election, but the pandemic and significant concerns over funding challenges and the economic outlook have put the brakes on any bond vote for the foreseeable future, the board decided this spring.
In the meantime, some of the most pressing concerns must be addressed in the short-term, the board has been told.
A faculty and staff meeting of Concord, Lunenburg/Gilman schools was held recently, according to the superintendent, to gather “input for considerations of Gilman/Concord single middle school.”
One of the ideas for Gilman School’s future use would be to ” … use the newer section in Gilman as a Pre-K and senior center for the community, educate Lunenburg middle school 6-8 at Concord, renovate Concord for the change, renovate Burke for the growing population,” according to the superintendent’s recent report. She noted that there is “Continued deterioration of the Gilman facility,” in the older portion of the building, and that both lead and mold remediation work is ongoing this summer.
Too, noted Botzojorns, “Work is needed to keep the building ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and upgrade the facility for both efficiency and equity.”
If grades 6-8 from Gilman are combined with Concord, then a small addition for Grade 5 at Lunenburg would be needed, the report states.
Estimated enrollment if Concord and Gilman’s grades 6-8 were combined for the 20-21 school year, allowing for specific content teaching and coaching and “focused use of personnel,” would be 25 in Grade 6; 26 in Grade 7; and 24 in Grade 8.
At the recent staff meeting for Concord and Gilman/Lunenburg, the following question was asked, “Does Concord have the space to accommodate 6-8th from Gilman?”
Other questions included:
● How would combining middle school programs benefit students?
● What will happen to the building in Gilman? Town still responsible?
● How will it affect the taxes of the people in the two towns?
● What staffing impacts will we see?
● Is it possible that Lunenburg/Gilman families will have a choice for middle school? Could some families choose to send kids to Lancaster, as it may be closer/less travel time?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: The middle school students in Gilman be tuitioned to other schools including schools in New Hampshire?
A: Gilman students can attend any other schools in the Kingdom East School District. Article 4 of the Articles of Agreement states that KESD will operate schools PK-8 and tuitioning children can only be done at the high school level so middle school students can not be tuitioned to NH.
Q: Can Kingdom East Board operate Gilman School as a pre-K/ early childhood or senior center?
A: Yes, the Board has the authority under Article 4 and Article 15 to reconfigure buildings. Changing the configuration of buildings and encouraging appropriate use of the building allows for this change. During the first four years after the merger for the unified district a school cannot be closed without consent of the electorate in the town in which the school is located. After July 1, 2022, a positive vote of the electorate in the town ” … which the school is located and a super majority (greater than 79%) of the votes cast by the Kingdom East’s Board of Directors.
“Kingdom East will encourage appropriate use of the building by the students and community according to the policies and procedures of the Kingdom East as overseen by the building administrator,” the report notes.
Contacted late last week, Botzojorns said, “There are no updates on the Concord-Gilman question.”
“We really want to hear from the communities, get input, share information, and see what the questions and ideas are,” she said. “Our June meeting to do this was cancelled. We will have a meeting on July 16 and Aug. 20.”