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NH town OKs replacing unsafe school with new one

August 23, 2010

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CLAREMONT, N.H.—Residents in the town of Unity voted overwhelmingly Monday night to spend $4.7 million to build a new elementary school after the state made the unprecedented move to shut down the old one because it was deemed unsafe.

At a town meeting moved to nearby Claremont to accommodate the large crowd, residents voted by more than the needed two-thirds majority to approve the funds to build a new school next to the existing Unity Elementary School.

They also approved $143,000 in emergency renovations to the existing school so children can attend classes there this year while the new building is under construction.

The New Hampshire Board of Education voted unanimously in July to close the school because of fire code and other safety violations. It was the first time the state board had shut down a school.

The school gained fame in 2008, when former presidential rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared there jointly to bury their campaign hatchets.

Unity, about 25 miles northwest of Concord, has about 1,700 residents and town officials have said roughtly 20 percent of the 744 households have tax liens on them for nonpayment. Unity residents twice had voted resoundingly against building a new school. But there has been an outpouring of support since the town's only school was ordered closed.

"I'm stunned. I'm elated. I'm overjoyed," Superintendent Jacqui Guillette said Monday night after the vote. "The town of Unity made history tonight. They approved the new school without the promise of state building aid. If that doesn't say they care about doing the right thing, nothing does."

Classes were originally scheduled to begin Aug. 30 but likely won't begin before Sept. 20 because of the renovations.

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Information from: WMUR-TV, http://wmur.com

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