Federal funding for windows - Kevin Richard

Superintendent Kevin Richard met with Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) on Friday to discuss the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The Conway School District is scheduled to receive $1.9 million in funding. (LLOYD JONES PHOTO)

CONWAY — Vote for the window bond. That’s the message school officials are urging citizens to do when they head to the polls at Kennett High School next Tuesday.

The window bond, Article 2 on the school warrant, seeks $1,186,345 to replace 511 windows at the 15-year-old high school.

The school board learned in June that the windows had become brittle and are falling apart.

But the district got some good news last Friday when it learned that a portion of the $1.9 million earmarked for the Conway School District from the American Rescue Plan's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund can be used to pay for new windows.

The Conway School Board has scheduled a special meeting for today at 6 p.m., with the lone agenda item is being the ability to use federal ESSER II money to help offset the cost of the window project at Kennett High School.

“If the board chooses to do this, approximately $650,000 can be used from the federal grant for the project,” Superintendent Kevin Richard said by phone Tuesday.

“There may be more money in ESSER III that may be available for further expenditure for the project,” he added.

“If this is the case, the bond (Article 2) will have to be voted in, as Article 2A is written in such a way that the grant money cannot be used for the project.”

Richard was referring to the two window articles on the school warrant — Article 2, which is the bond and needs at least 60 percent voter support to pass, and Article 2A, which states: “Should Article 2 fail to approve the issuance of $1.186,345 of bonds, to see if the District will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $636,345 to be added to the Expendable Trust Fund (new Kennett High School Facilities Maintenance Fund) established for that purpose in 2007, for the purpose of replacing the windows and related improvements at Kennett High School. In the following year’s tuition calculation, approximately $418,906 will offset this amount from the sending towns.”

Richard expects “the board to have a good conversation” when it meets via Zoom on Wednesday.

“The ESSR funds will serve the purpose it was intended to and hopefully relieve the tax burden on local taxpayers,” he said.

On March 17, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) announced that New Hampshire K-12 schools would receive $350,501,633 to help schools safely reopen and support students from the school relief fund.

According to the state Department of Education, that brings the total COVID-19 relief funds to over $650 million.

“New Hampshire schools are slated to receive the $350,501,633 in ARP ESSER through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021,” a release from Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut states. “This new funding is intended to help state education agencies take additional steps to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction, and to address the disruptions to student learning resulting from the pandemic.”

Edelblut said this includes using funds for “COVID-19 mitigation strategies and, to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on students, including from interrupted instruction; implement strategies to meet students’ social, emotional, mental health and academic needs; offer crucial summer, after-school and other extended learning and enrichment programs; support early childhood education; invest in staff capacity.”

Richard and other administrators are in the process of determining how best to use the $1.9 million in funds.

“There are other needs besides the windows,” Richard said. “There is the summer program and the need for additional teaching staff. We want to do energy upgrades districtwide and that will cost a few hundred thousand dollars. It would allow us to regulate fresh air into each room.”

The board had invited eight businesses to take part in the bidding process to replace all 511 windows at the now 14-year-old school. Just two submitted proposals. Lockheed Window Corp. of Burrillville, R.I., and Cherry Hill Glass Company of Branford, Conn., submitted bid proposals by the Feb. 26 deadline.

Those invited but declining to bid were Granite State Glass of Conway; Rich Exterior Solutions of Falmouth, Maine; BRG Corp. of Rochester, N.Y.; Bam Bam Construction LLC of North Conway; Hancock Lumber of North Conway; and T-Buck Construction Inc. of Turner, Maine.

Lockheed Window Corp. came in below the $1.3 million the board had originally thought the project would cost, at $1,186,345.

Cherry Hill Glass Co. submitted a bid of $1,425,000.

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