School Proposal Addresses Critical Needs and Looks Into the Future
Mount Lebanon School Principal Eloise Ginty is very familiar with the West Lebanon neighborhood in which her school is nestled; she often walks around it to have phone calls with Superintendent Dr. Joanne Roberts because there’s no private place to talk in the school. She shares her office three days a week with a school therapist, and her kindergarten-through-fourth-grade students all attend physical education in the small multipurpose room which is dangerously small for the bigger kids. Their school meals are shipped over from Lebanon High School, and their “warming kitchen” sometimes runs out before every hungry student is fed.
“As the needs have changed over 60 to 70 years, we’ve taken closets and turned them into offices. We’ve used every square inch,” said Director of Facilities Dana Arey. “Our schools were not built for modern educational means and methods.”
“They weren’t designed for the security concerns we have now,” added Business Administrator Tim Ball.
That’s why the district has proposed a school modernization plan to bring the city’s elementary and high schools up to today’s standards for learning. Voters will decide on the $28.9 million plan in March.
“The voters have consistently supported our district budget over the years, providing salaries that allow us to hire good teachers,” said Lebanon High School Principal Ian Smith. “We need to have the facilities to be competitive.”
The modernization plan calls for new construction and renovations at Mount Lebanon School, Hanover Street School, and Lebanon High School, plus parking and landscaping improvements. It addresses safety and security concerns, inadequate classroom and administrative space, traffic flow and parking concerns, and other issues at all three schools.
Mount Lebanon would benefit from a new entrance and administrative office area, new kitchen, expanded multipurpose and instructional space, more parking, and a new drop-off pattern. Hanover Street would also get a more secure entrance, expanded library and classrooms, and a new cafeteria separate from the high school’s. The high school would gain a new auditorium to relieve its overflowing music room and gym, and gain more flexibility for the district’s performing arts programs while freeing up Lebanon Opera House from the many school uses it currently generously allows. According to Smith, seven area school districts surrounding Lebanon have their own auditoriums that serve as important community gathering spaces. The Mascoma High School auditorium, for example, hosts family movie nights and school district voting meetings.
Lebanon Middle School was opened fairly recently in 2012, but the district’s other three schools – Mount Lebanon School, Hanover Street School, and Lebanon High School – have only been minorly renovated during their many decades of use, Arey said.
The new middle school is a significant asset to the community, according to Principal John D’Entremont. “This project is an investment in the other three.”
“I’m excited about the proposed updates to the drop-off and pick-up areas at the Mount Lebanon School. Increased visibility and more secure entrances benefit everyone in the neighborhood,” said Lauren Whittlesey, a parent of two young kids in West Lebanon. “The increase in taxes is worth it to me because I know in the long run having great schools will make Lebanon more desirable and increase our property values. If we let our schools deteriorate, families moving to the area will start looking to other towns with better facilities for their kids.”
In addition to improving the learning environment for the 1,177 students who attend the three schools, Smith, Ginty, and D’Entremont stressed the level of use the schools get from nearly 30 other community groups: the Lebanon Farmers’ Market, English language and citizenship classes, the 5 Colleges Book Sale, and various sports programs offered by Lebanon Recreation and Parks, just to name a few, not to mention the more than 130 high school students alone who are involved in the schools’ performing arts programs. “Essentially our buildings are used Monday to Sunday, beyond the school day, at little to no cost for groups,” Ball said.
That collaboration and shared use is key to many community groups and something to be celebrated, D’Entremont said, and all the more reason to ensure these important community spaces are safe and welcoming.
“The children in our school systems are our future. Their education will impact all of our community members in some way at some time,” wrote Adrienne Domenicucci, a Lebanon resident with two kids in elementary school. “Their well-being and positive school experience and education will benefit all people of Lebanon and beyond.”