Tilton School on Grove Street
Plans for filling the new Hunking School continue to take shape, with roughly 150 Bradford Elementary fifth-graders and all 250-plus students in kindergarten through second grade at Greenleaf School moving to the Hunking when school begins in September.
Added to the students already enrolled, those 400 students will bring Hunking’s student count to about 900, Superintendent James F. Scully told the School Committee Thursday, leaving a little more than 100 seats available to students who don’t live in the city’s Bradford section.
Scully said the majority of the seats, as many as 80, will be offered mostly to middle school students from the K-through-eighth-grade Consentino School, located on Washington Street. Mayor James J. Fiorentini urged Scully to move as many students as possible from the Tilton Elementary School on Grove Street. Both the Consentino and Tilton schools sit in the neighborhood known as Mount Washington.
Residents of Mount Washington earn about $11,000 less per year than the average Haverhill family, and $30,000 less per year than the average family living across the river in Bradford.
The presence of a new, state-of-the-art school in the affluent Bradford section juxtaposed with two older schools with space and structural challenges located in the poorer inner-city Mount Washington section has spurred talk of what Fiorentini calls a “tale of two cities.”
The mayor said he doesn’t want to see the city’s poor children consigned to the city’s older schools while those from richer neighborhoods attend the new school.
But committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti said moving a handful of students from one school to the other is not the answer.
“Moving a dozen students from Tilton to Hunking doesn’t solve the ‘tale of two cities’ problem,” he said. “The real answer is to build a new school to replace the Tilton.”
Committee member Scott A. Wood suggested keeping the Greenleaf students in place would open 250 seats at Hunking that could be used by students from Mount Washington and other inner-city neighborhoods.
“I’m concerned about the disparity between the two,” said Wood, referring to the Tilton and Hunking schools.
Wood also cautioned that moving the Greenleaf students out of the Chadwick Street building could endanger its continued use. With space at a premium districtwide, Wood said he fears losing the classrooms at the Greenleaf.
But Scully said he plans to move other students into the building, which does not offer handicap accessibility and needs a new roof and furnace.
Magliocchetti said he recognizes the need for space for students, but maintaining the Greenleaf might not be the best choice.
“Keep it alive, if we can,” he said of the school, “but there’s a cost to doing that.”
Magliocchetti reminded Scully that the successful campaign that led to voter approval of the $61 million Hunking was predicated on the closure of the Greenleaf School and the $11 million savings that would entail by eliminating the need for repairs to the building.
“We have an obligation to keep our promise,” he said.
“In reality, we do have a classroom issue, and if we’re going to need more classrooms in the city then we are going to have to seriously consider if we need another new school to balance things out,” Magliocchetti said.