Guest Column: Don’t Skimp on Haverhill’s New Consentino School

Dr. Albert B. Consentino School. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

Dr. Thomas Grannemann is a retired economist and advocate for stronger public schools. He is a member of the Haverhill Education Coalition and creator of the website. (WHAV News file photograph.)

At its meeting this Thursday (Dec. 16), the School Building Committee will consider options and costs for school renovation, expansion, and/or replacement of Consentino School, which serves a lower-income, high diversity neighborhood.

Haverhill’s Mayor and Committee members may be tempted to choose cut-rate options for the Consentino School; however, this is not the time to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Haverhill is eligible for more than 2:1 matching funds from the state to increase school capacity, alleviate crowding, avoid rental costs, and reduce long-run maintenance and operating costs. It would be foolish to focus on short-term savings rather than long-term value, by choosing to renovate rather than replace, to minimize the expansion, or to set an arbitrary spending limit.

The real value of this project will come from: (1) ensuring there is ample space for future educational programs, (2) selecting a green design to lower future energy costs, (3) incorporating modern efficient HVAC to protect health and support year-round classroom use, (4) creating flexible spaces that can support project-based learning experiences for all students, and (5) securing needed financing ahead of further inflation, in order to repay with cheaper dollars in years ahead.

Consentino should be envisioned and designed as the second (after Hunking) of four equal, efficient, and fully modern middle schools in the HPS system – a school fully positioned to provide equal opportunities to all Haverhill students and prepare them for rigorous high school academic and vocational programs.

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