Hampton Academy Code Upgrade Could Cost $10 Million

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Board Wants Second Study on Middle School Needs

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, October 1, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton Academy after completion in 1940
[Courtesy photo not in original article]

HAMPTON -- A study looking at what it would cost to bring the Hampton Academy middle school up to code as well as meet the American Disability Act and fire code requirements came in with a $8 million to $10 million price tag.

The Hampton School Board recently reviewed the study that was prepared by the Harriman Group but rather than move forward with the costly endeavor, the board has decided to call for another study.

The board voted earlier this month to spend an additional $15,000 to study the current space of the facility and whether it's adequate for what a middle school should be, according to standards set by the state Department of Education.

Board Chairwoman Rosemary Lamers said the reason why they decided to go this route is they don't want to pour that amount of money into the building without seeing the complete picture.

Board member Maureen O'Leary said the first study only looked at the "shell" of the building that was constructed in 1939.

"It looked at ADA compliance, state fire issues, roof, ventilation and so forth," O'Leary said. "It did not address the education aspect of the building and what it's used for."

O'Leary said the company will take the information it has collected and advance it to the next level.

"The next level is to look at the building as a middle school," said O'Leary. "What does the state require of a middle school? What are our deficiencies and what do we need to do be in compliance?"

Once both studies are done, Lamers said, they should have a total cost of what it will take to rehab the building.

"They will come back with that report stating currently this is the space you have and this is how we would see the reconfiguration of that space in order to meet code educationally," Lamers said. "They may come in and say we need to add to this building to create additional space to be fully in compliance."

Lamers said the board already knows the building is not in compliance for the space recommended for a gym.

"We have two gyms in that building and neither one of them is up to code for today's standards for a gym," Lamers said.

The school also doesn't meet the requirement for the amount of outside fields that it should have.

Lamers said they expect the new study to be completed by the end of October.

Whether a warrant article will be put forth to voters this March for a major upgrade of Hampton Academy has yet to be determined.

"We are not in a position to say yes or no," Lamers said. "Do we know that things have to be done to that building? The answer is yes. But the question is what, how much and when? Those are the questions that should be answered when the report comes in."

Lamers said another issue the board will have to look at is the total cost.

"If the building is worth $10 million and it's going to cost $20 million to upgrade, there may be a problem. At some point you get to a price tag where you naturally begin a conversation: Is this the right location or would it be less costly to construct a new building in a different location?"

The board hired the company to complete the initial study last March.

It came on the heels of a committee recommending the board nix the idea of constructing a new middle school and instead rehabilitate the existing building.

At the time, officials noted the rehabilitating the building is estimated to cost $15 million while construction a new school was projected at more than $22 million.

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