WINTERPORT — A handful of SAD 22 voters gave approval Thursday evening in a nonbinding straw vote to a proposed 8,000-square-foot addition to Leroy Smith School. The tally was 13 in favor of the project and two opposed, with two or three people abstaining.
The board will vote to hire an architect at its April 5 meeting, and a second nonbinding straw vote will be held in December.
The state board is scheduled to give concept approval in January 1996, and a referendum in Winterport, Hampden and Newburgh would be held March 1996. Construction would start in the summer of 1996, and the addition could be opened in September 1997.
Information on the addition was presented mainly by Emil Genest, assistant superintendent, and by Tim Moran, Winterport school board representative and chairman of the building committee.
The enrollment at Smith School is much smaller than it was before three grades moved into the new Wagner School a few years ago, but the Smith School still has one portable unit with two classrooms. The main reason for the request to the state, however, is to accommodate programming, not enrollment.
As proposed, the project would add two 900-square-foot classrooms and enlarge the library from 720 to 1,600 square feet. The dimensions of the addition are the maximum allowed by the state for new construction under the category of “special projects.”
Two of the existing classrooms, which are too small, would be used for computers and for special education. Additional space would accommodate art and music, speech and hearing, remedial education and programs for gifted and talented pupils.
Code items would be upgraded, including electrical, heating, fire alarm, sprinkler and ventilation components. Handicapped accessibility also would be improved. The oldest wing of Smith School was built more than 40 years ago.
Under current state policy, the project would be totally funded by the state, because SAD 22 has new middle schools in Winterport and Hampden and already is paying the maximum for debt service.
But the Rosser Commission, a state-appointed commission, has been discussing changing that formula so that all such projects would involve some local funding.
“Maine School Management (Association) is saying the Legislature will likely vote 10 percent, which is what it once was” for local contribution on school projects, explained board member Joseph Watson, who is also a former principal of Smith School.
It is not known whether such a change in the rules would apply to schools already on the state’s “protected list,” which includes the Smith School addition.
Nine applications have been received from architects, Genest said, and the building committee will screen those down to the three or four to be interviewed.
Principal Keith Welch said that it had not been decided where the addition would be built. Currently, it is necessary to walk through the gym to get from one wing of the school to the other. There is some interest in building the addition so that it would connect the two wings, he said.
Roofing also would be replaced, he said, adding, “We have constant leaks in this building which affect safety and health.”
The two votes against the addition came from Winterport residents Linda Geisel and Barbara Degan, two of the parents involved in last year’s controversy over “the box,” the small time-out area that was used to discipline eight children at Smith School.