Special Needs School OK’d

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 23, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

A school for special needs students will be located at what is now the Maranatha Church of Hampton. [Photo by Jamie Cohen]

HAMPTON -- The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved variances to allow a school for special needs students to operate at what is now the Maranatha Church on High Street.

The board approved the request of the Odyssey House Foundation to operate the school in a residential zone, which will serve as many as 60 children from Hampton and surrounding towns.

Odyssey NH was founded to treat young people, mothers and families dealing with drug and alcohol addiction.

The organization is purchasing the church from pastor JD Minerella, who said the church has been on the market for the last three years.

Minerella said he plans to relocate his church to a new building in Seabrook.

Erik Johannessen, chief executive officer of Odyssey House, told the board the group wants to purchase the church because it has run out of room in its current facilities in Hampton and Rochester.

"This is a real need and will be helpful to families in Hampton and the surrounding communities," he said.

Unlike the residential home on Winnacunnet Road, where students both live and go to school, the recovery high school will be a day program operating during normal school hours.

Hampton Academy Principal Fred Muscara and SAU 21 Superintendent James Gaylord supported the proposal.

Hampton School Board Chairwoman Sandra Nickerson urged the board to approve the project.

"Teen drug and alcohol abuse is alive and well and thriving in our community," Nickerson said. "Just look at the recent deaths in Seabrook and Stratham. We are burying our young people and we need help. We need all of your help. There is an opportunity here for the board to do something good. If ever there was a variance needed, this is the one."

Former state Senate President Beverly Hollingworth said the project was crucial to this community and to the state.

While the majority of those attending the meeting spoke in favor of the project, several residents spoke against it, citing that such a school would diminish their property values.

"To say that this isn’t going to impact my house really bothers me," said Judith Norton of 151 High St.

Others, including 89-year-old Maryanne Moran, expressed concern that troubled youths would frequent the area.

David Choate, a member of the Odyssey House board of directors, said he doesn’t believe the school would lower property values, especially since it plans to make $250,000 worth of upgrades to the facility.

He also said that there would be one supervisor to every four students.

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