hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

October 27, 2011

Parents organize for new school

Concerned Bradford parents are sending out an S.O.S. to all of Haverhill.

But it isn't a cry of distress — it's a call for action.

Close to 20 families have united to form "Haverhill Parents Saving Our Schools,'' an organization which is demanding city and school leaders find a way to build a new Hunking Middle School in the Bradford section of Haverhill.

"We're pushing for a new school," said Kelly Valaskatgis, one of the group's organizers. "We're not going to let Hunking slide. The school has been overlooked for so long and everyone knew it."

Consisting of parents who packed the Oct. 13 School Committee meeting, the group's primary activities will include a continued presence at upcoming meetings, awareness campaigns, and petitioning for improvements at other Haverhill schools.

The group has also set up a Facebook page to help connect with other Haverhill parents online.

"We're getting all of the parents to stick together," Valaskatgis said, noting she would be happy to stand alongside families from other schools who feel their concerns have been ignored.

The decision to unite under a common banner came when parents such as Valaskatgis and Rhonda Campbell, another organizer of the group, said their individual complaints of a deteriorating and unsanitary Hunking building fell on the deaf ears of city and school leaders over the past several years.

"I've been fighting this battle since 2008," Campbell said. "I know it's not going to happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere."

A structural engineer inspected the school earlier this month after Principal David Cook had noticed cracking throughout several classrooms. The consultant said the foundation throughout the building's right side was at risk of caving in.

Close to 200 students, Hunking's entire sixth grade, are now being bused to classes at a school called Hunking North, located at the former Bartlett School across the Merrimack River.

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