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Preschool Program Moving to High School

Two classrooms and two staff bathrooms will be converted.

The school board voted unanimously on April 3 to move the district's preschool program into two classrooms at Windham High School, a unique move that will empty out the building of students on Haverhill Road.

Ongoing problems with the current location, which include water damage to the back of the building and a significant pest concern, are triggering the move.

Superintendent Henry LaBranche said that the district determined it was not going to have enough money to invest in the improvement in the building to the extent that it wanted.

The current building was originally deeded to the district by the town, but the town can take it back at any time.

District business administrator Adam Steel explained that the Haverhill road location is a liability to whoever is responsible for it, and said that will be the case for years.

"The reality is it's been a poorly maintained building for a number of years," he said.

After funding from a federal preschool grant, the cost for the move will be just under $25,000 to the district.

The timeline for the project will begin right after WHS ends its school year and run until the end of summer. Windham Special Education Coordinator Tina McCoy said that the new location will be partially ready for those preschool students who are part of the extended school year program, which begins in mid-July.

The school already has handicapped access for the preschoolers in and out of the building. There will not be handicapped access to the bathrooms, but McCoy explained that those particular students are typically given one-on-one attention from professionals.

The move will transplant 29 preschool students to the lower level of WHS, at the end of one of the halls. The goal for preschool coordinator Meg Rugg and McCoy is to integrate the preschoolers into the high school curicculum, a plan that LaBranche also echoed.

Preschool-sized sinks will also be added to the two classrooms, and a portion of one of the rooms will also be turned into a motor area where kids can have the same equipment they use currently.

A play area immediately outside the door will also be erected.

Board member Stephanie Wimmer clarified to the public that the preschool move is very different than trying to place eighth graders at WHS.

"This isn't just apples to oranges, this is apples to carburetors," she said.

One reason she cited was because the kid's will not be at WHS all day, and the coordinators can control the start and stop times when children come.

Much like several of the other board members, Wimmer said that she toured the Haverhill Road facility and was disappointed.

"I have been very vocal – (I have) not been happy that we have kids in that building," she said.

Steel clarified that they assessed the mold issues at the current building and they do not yet pose a health risk, explaining that air quality testing was done.

But if the roof keeps leaking, he said that could change.

The board and its staff also turned over every rock to see if there were other options, but determined that the ideal location - Golden Brook School – could not accomodate the kids.

Options were also pursued ouside of the town, but those proved to be costly.

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