Concord School District to apply for state aid for Rundlett project

2022-06-24 20:50:24 By : Mr. Wiikk Wiikk

Concord School Board members discuss the application for state building aid on June 21, 2022. EILEEN O'GRADY—Monitor staff

Citizens aligned with the initiative Rebuild at Rundlett are urging the Concord School District to rebuild the middle school on it's current South Street site instead of buying new land on Clinton Street. Rebuild at Rundlett

Concord residents packed the Concord School Board meeting room on Tuesday night to express opposition to the district’s plan to purchase property on Clinton Street for the new Rundlett Middle School building, and urging the board to rebuild the middle school on its current South Street site.

Most expressed concern about kids’ ability to safely walk and bike to a school located on Clinton Street, which experiences heavy, fast-moving traffic.

Ward 7 resident Alex Streeter, whose first-grade daughter will be middle-school age by the time the new Rundlett building is complete, said he runs and bikes in the area frequently. While the end of the street that elevates toward 89 is great for running hill repeats, Streeter said, it’s not always a pleasant experience.

“Clinton Street is a great route to take to get to somewhere else,” Streeter said. “When I do these things in January and February when it is dark, when the shoulders are covered in slush and sand and everything else, it is not a particularly safe place. And I don’t feel particularly comfortable having my young children out there on that street.”

Of the approximately 40 audience members in attendance, many were members of the citizens’ group Rebuild at Rundlett, a movement to urge the district to rebuild on the current South Street site, instead of purchasing the 38-acre property located at 129-139 Clinton Street, which is currently owned by CenterPoint Church. Yard signs saying “Rebuild at Rundlett” have popped up along many streets in Concord’s South End.

“I urge you take every effort to rebuild Rundlett on-site so that we can have as many students as possible walking, biking, skating to get to school from the neighborhoods that are already nearby the schools instead of us building out more and more sprawl with Concord,” said Ward 5 resident Reagan Bissonnette.

Other attendees spoke about the need to maintain farmland and green space on Clinton Street. And many long-time South End residents expressed nostalgia for having “neighborhood schools” at the South Street site, where Abbot-Downing School and Rundlett – and previously Conant Elementary – are located.

“Rundlett is one of our neighborhood schools, and it’s a big part of our South End identity,” said Ward 7 resident and former School Board member Liza Poinier. “If it moves, the middle school is no longer anyone’s neighborhood school. Additionally, I shudder to think what could happen on that nice neighborhood parcel if the school isn’t there.”

On Tuesday, the School Board decided 7-0 to submit a building aid application to the State by July 1 for a project costing $176,243,428. According to the draft application, the district is anticipating needing for $20,391,973 for site acquisition and development, $32,750,000 for planning and design costs and $104,531,701 for construction.

Concord’s building aid application won’t name a specific building site, and board president Jim Richards said submitting the application doesn’t bind the district to any property decision.

“If we apply and we vote to approve this application going forward, that does not commit us to actually building,” Richards said. “That will be a vote later on. Although we will be discussing the existing site and the Clinton Street site, that does not preclude other sites that this district may own or may utilize, because we do not have all the information.”

The district entered into a letter of intent in March to purchase the CenterPoint Church property. The viability of the Rundlett Middle School project hinges on several key factors including the building aid, a decision by the Church congregation to enter a purchase and sale agreement and a decision on whether to partner with the Granite YMCA to build a side-by-side facility.

Business administrator Jack Dunn said Wednesday that the district is still moving toward a purchase and sale agreement for the CenterPoint land, and is currently awaiting an update from the Church about its decision to move forward.

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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