hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 6, 2014

New school deserves voters' support -- if city's numbers accurate

If engineers said your house was falling apart, surely you’d pay attention.

And, you’d be all ears if, after repairs, they said you had spent all you should to keep it livable, that it was time to build a new home.

But the engineers did offer some good news. You’d be able to afford the new building with the same mortgage you paid on the old house.

It sounds like a deal you’d likely embrace. But you’d be foolish to go ahead without making sure the financial figures were correct.

So it is in Haverhill, as the push is on to build a new school to replace Hunking School.

Engineers have said Hunking is deteriorating. There’s no questioning that. In the fall of 2011, the city had to rush 150 students out of one wing of the building, where severe deterioration was found, and put them in another school. Once temporary repairs were made to the Hunking, the children returned, but the school is usable for only a few more years.

The debate began: Should Haverhill sink more money into the Hunking to extend its life or look to build a new school?

School officials said the answer is clear to them. They said Haverhill would be foolish to spend more money on the deteriorated building when the city could get the state to pay about two thirds of the cost of a new school. The city would get a new, bigger building that would also allow it to close the old Greenleaf School, saving money on renovations there. The new building would also allow Haverhill to shift students between other schools, easing overcrowding.

A group of parents is campaigning to convince voters to support the new school when they go to the polls in June. Their support is needed for Haverhill to get the state money. Voters would have to approve covering about a third of the expense.

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