By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 14, 2004
[Photo by Andrew Moore]
HAMPTON - Five shovels plunged into the ground marking the official start of the $25.6 million Winnacunnet expansion project.
"It’s hard to believe that pile of dirt will soon be the new gymnasium," said high school Principal Ruth Leveille.
Friday night’s groundbreaking ceremony was also another chance to thank the four communities that supported the project, which will transform the current high school into a bigger and more modern space over the next two years.
School officials, students and members of the community gathered outside the high school to witness the event.
"I want to say a huge thank you to the entire Winnacunnet High School community," said Winnacunnet School Board member Chris Singleton. "This was an unbelievable team effort."
The $25.6 million project, which was defeated twice before, passed overwhelmingly in all four communities last March.
Because the issue was a bond question, it needed 60 percent approval to pass. The project came in at 68 percent approval.
"Our gratitude goes out to the Winnacunnet staff," said Singleton. "People were going to ask the staff if we really needed this addition and you guys said, 'Yes we do, we need to have this.’
"To all the students at Winnacunnet. You went out there and talked to your parents and neighbors."
Singleton gave a special thanks to the Winnacunnet Outreach Committee, which worked to get the project passed in all four communities.
"To the Winnacunnet Outreach Committee," said Singleton, "what an incredible team. I have had the honor of working for the past 20 years for Fortune 500 companies and its many great teams. I have to tell you, this Winnacunnet Outreach Committee could stack up against any of them."
"Four towns coming together in support of kids is just phenomenal," said Leveille. "Every town passed it. It’s really historical in this area. It’s very cool."
The project calls for the building of a two-story, 23-classroom academic building to replace the 18 modular classrooms that now surround the school. The modular classrooms are meant to accommodate the ever-increasing student enrollment that the 1958 building cannot house.
The academic building will include 12 science classrooms to replace the current laboratories that administrators say are severely outdated.
Also included in the plan is a new physical fitness building with a 3,000-seat gym, a 500-capacity cafeteria and further renovations to the current building.
"On behalf of the student body and the towns that make up Winnacunnet, I want to say as superintendent of schools thank you for your support, thank you for your dedication," said Superintendent James Gaylord. "I know twice a year, you will be reminded of your dedication."
The School Board has hired an architect, Frank Marinace of New Hampton. The board has also hired a construction management firm for the project, PROCON construction of Manchester.
"Next spring there is going to be a building right there," said Marinace, pointing to the pile of dirt. "There is a lot of winter between now and then. We are going to be out here in any weather, building this thing."
"We have the best kids," said Singleton. "I will also say that about our staff. And we all know we have a great community. And now were going to have a great building addition that’s going to give our kids the best education possible."