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September 6, 2013

Manchester, Essex weigh elementary choices

MANCHESTER — Officials from both Manchester and Essex past and present, along with residents within the Manchester Essex Regional School District, asked questions and heard some answers this week regarding a facilities review and the future of the district’s two elementary schools.

The review this week was designed to outline the issues around the aging Manchester Memorial Elementary School and neighboring Essex Elementary School.

The regional School Committee will be putting together a task force to help give input and guidance on which of the three options best fits the district.

Those options include building a single, regional elementary school in one of the towns; renovating and adding to both the Manchester and Essex elementary schools, or adding to both schools, but using Essex to house students from pre-kindergarten through second grade students, while Manchester Memorial would serve those in Grades 3-5.

The task force will include School Committee members Jim Haskell and Caroline Weld, who sit on the facilities subcommittee, one member of the Board of Selectmen from each town, one member of the Finance Committee from each town, one preschool parent from each town, two parents are large from each town, one resident from each town with school officials and principles advising.

“This is not a building committee, to be totally clear,” School Committee chairman Linda Crosby said during Tuesday’s meeting.

During his presentation on the current schools, Steven Habeeb of Habeeb & Associates Architects pointed out the decrepit state of the schools.

“The buildings are well-maintained from a cleanliness perspective, but they are aging, and they do need work,” he said.

Manchester Memorial was constructed in 1950 and currently holds 465 students while Essex Elementary School was built in 1958 and serves 272.

From illegal, out-of-sync urinals and new boilers to handicapped accessibility and new windows, Manchester is facing a total of $7,579,614 in priority repairs while Essex’s price tag is $4,290,205, Habeeb indicated.

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