PELHAM -- They picked up the pace of paving at Pelham High on Tuesday.
As the district prepared to welcome its students back for the first day of the 2014-15 school year today, Pelham High Principal Dorothy Mohr spent some of her time Tuesday inspecting the grounds with construction officials, and reassuring some skeptical students, parents and the public that phase one of the $22.6 million school remodeling and addition project remains on schedule.
Motorists passing along Marsh Road could see crews working feverishly to put the finishing touches on the paving and striping of the new parking lot located on land to the right of the school that was formerly occupied by a softball field.
"They're striping the parking lot right now," Mohr said at midday Tuesday. "I stepped out and saw the first lines go down. They're also putting up some signs, and the lights are supposed to be up by tonight, so we're intending to put students over there tomorrow morning. We anticipate a good opening."
The newly paved lot includes school-bus drop-off stops, and entrance and exit driveways designed to move traffic more smoothly on and off Marsh Road. It also contains 100 parking spaces for those students who drive to school.
Parents wishing to drop students off at the high school will be able to do so on the opposite side of the building in the existing parking lot, the principal noted.
"It means the issue we used to have in front of the building -- where everybody was all together -- that is somewhat alleviated. That's a nice bonus," added Mohr.
The school district has published and posted diagrams on its website showing the new drop-off system and parking situation at the high school.
As they prepared for football practice Tuesday at the high school, teammates Ryan Demers, a junior, and Michael Dommel, a sophomore, remarked that the new parking lot's construction had seemed to progress rather slowly over the summer.
"They've been working on it for a while. It looks like it's going to be a mess. I don't know how the buses are going to get in," said Demers.
"I'm glad that they're doing it. It's just that the work is taking longer than I thought it would." said Dommel.
In an historic town-election vote on March 11, 61 percent of Pelham residents approved of funding a $22.6 million Pelham High School addition and renovation project to be paid for through a municipal bond at up to 4.5 percent interest. It is being constructed in phases over three years with a targeted completion date of the fall of 2016.
Pelham's Superintendent of Schools Amanda Lecaroz reported in June that a bond sale by the New Hampshire Municipal Bond Bank for the 20-year project came in at an average interest cost of 3.23 percent.
"If you recall, the estimated interest rate used for tax projections leading up to the March election was 4.5 percent," Lecaroz wrote in a message to Pelham's taxpayers on the school district's website. "In the first year alone, the interest payment will be approximately $58,000 less than what was projected at the time of the March 2014 election."
Lecaroz has since reported that some of that savings may be reduced, however, with the discovery by construction officials that two of the school's interior walking ramps, leading to the cafeteria and gymnasium, will need to be completely rebuilt to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.
The first phase of construction of the Pelham High Remodeling and Addition project, which began this summer, involved installing the new parking lot and relocating the school's existing septic system from in front of the building to the rear.
Mohr said the front of the school will remain fenced off and the old front entrance and driveway will be inaccessible through the second phase of construction, which will involve building a 42,000-square-foot addition in front of the current school building, starting this fall and into next year.
"It's very exciting. It's taking a lot of coordination between a lot of people, and we're asking people to bear with us while we put everything in place," said Mohr. "As long as the weather holds up and we keep everything moving, they're on schedule, and that's a good thing. We'll get it right."
Mohr was joined by Lecaroz for a site-walk of the high school grounds on Tuesday, in preparation for today's opening of classes.
As he walked his bicycle past the construction site on Marsh Road, incoming freshman Derek Wentzell said he feared noise from the ongoing construction may be somewhat of a distraction for him this year.
"It'll be interesting. It's probably going to be hard to concentrate," Wentzell said.
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