Proposed Nottingham School Addition - Warrant Article #1
Design picture provided by the Nottingham School)
Steve Soreff, MD•
Start Date:Issue Date:
With the all School and Town Warrant Articles (WA) on the Ballot June 8, 2021, this is one in the series of articles about the Warrant Articles. The purpose of these reports is based on the idea that the more informed the voters are, the better the decisions they make. This article is about Nottingham School WA #1.
All the Nottingham School Warrant Articles can be found on the SAU 44 website.
The specifics of Warrant Article #1 are as follows:
"Passage of this article shall override the 10 percent limitation imposed on this appropriation due to the non-recommendation of the budget committee. Shall the School District vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Six Million One Hundred Sixty-Five Thousand Four Hundred Ninety Dollars ($6,165,490) (gross budget) for the final design, construction and original equipping of additions and renovations to the Nottingham School, Fifty-Four Thousand One Hundred Thirty-Seven Dollars ($154,137) for the first year’s payment on the bond? (3/5 majority vote required). The School Board recommends 5-0 The Budget Committee does not recommend 6-5. The estimated tax impact for the first year if this article passes is $0.19 per $1,000, which is interest only. The estimated tax impact for the second year if this article passes is $0.58 per $1,000 at current assessment based on a twenty (20) year bond. This amount is expected to decline over the term of the bond. "
A classroom in a closet at the Nottingham School (Photograph provided by the Nottingham School)
To learn more about WA #1, this reporter sat down with Chris Sousa, the Nottingham School Principal in his office on Thursday morning, May 6, 2021. We both wore masks and were six feet apart. Even before Sousa outlined the specific reasons for the addition, he articulated an important overarching reason for the space expansion. He pointed out that elementary and middle school education has dramatically changed in the last 20 years. He said the entire instruction concept has moved to "a personalized evidence-based system which has resulted in increased learning.” Gone are the days of desks and chairs in a row. He continued, "the focus is on small group instruction model” and "taking the students from where they are and getting them to where they need to be."
I could hear in my mind the old and highly successful advertisement, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile.” There had been a huge paradigm shift in schools and education. Sousa went to proudly cite that because the Nottingham School has made that transformation it is now rated in the top 20% of schools in New Hampshire and its middle school is rated 5th in that group statewide. He added that just 10 years ago, the same school was identified by the state as "in need of improvement.” I felt a silent wow and pride in the school. Although the enrollment at the school has remained constant over the decade, education has changed necessitating new space requirements.
With this shift in mind, Sousa then went on to detail space challenges faced daily in the school. He outlined three major space issues currently dealt with in the building. First, students and teachers now meet in what used to be closets. Second, classes have to share space with other activities. And third, student and faculty actually meet in the hallway for instruction. These three things alone would provide reason enough to consider expansion but there are other space problems.
Here is a list of the actual spaces gained from the addition. There will be 3 kindergarten classrooms. The kindergarten has changed from a half day to full day program. There will be a Preschool Room. Currently, the preschool students attend a Step-by-Step program in Northwood. Other areas Sousa hopes will be approved include a Music Room, a World Language Room, an Environment Room, and two Resource & Life Skills Rooms as well as a Computer Lab. Furthermore, there will be a mechanical room and gym storage room.
A class sharing its space with another activity, at the Nottingham School (Photograph provided by the Nottingham School)
Sousa was also quick to point out that Nottingham School was not just a school building but a key and important community building. He started to list all the community activities at the school. Elections are held at the school. The Recreation Department holds an After School program in it and its summer camp is based there. Here is a partial list of community groups who utilize just the building itself: The Women’s Club, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Nottingham Youth Association (NYA) and Candidates’ Night. Furthermore, the community uses its grounds and trails. There is an outdoor volley ball court at the school and walking trails.
A class in the hallway at the Nottingham School (Photograph provided by the Nottingham School)
As I came away from this interview, I thought about the way I learned to tell the difference between the word’s principle and principal. It was now clear that there are new principles involved with a more individualized and small group style of elementary school education. And it's the school principal, Chris Sousa who believes in this principle.
The election and voting on the Warrant Articles take place Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM at the Nottingham School.