April 08, 2020

Board to visit educational facilities> Tours are part of planning process to update school buildings in Old Town

OLD TOWN — Now that consultants have completed a study of public school programming and buildings, it’s time for local officials and residents to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The Old Town School Department commissioned the $25,000 study to provide the community the background information it will need as it begins determining what needs to be done to ensure that its aging schools are able to meet the needs of education in the 21st century.

Among the possible solutions offered for consideration by the Maine Center for Educational Services and Harriman Associates, both of Auburn, were a series of long-range building projects ranging from $16.7 million to $30 million in estimated cost.

The so-called “leapfrogging” option, which is the most costly at $30 million, calls for expanding Herbert Sargent School and converting the middle school to a school for kindergarten through fifth-grade; moving the middle school to the high school; and building a new high school.

The least costly, at $16.7 million, involves renovating each of the six existing schools and adding needed space through construction.

Under a third option, the city could consolidate the four elementary schools into one new building and renovate the middle and high schools.

The other plan would be to expand Herbert Sargent School; build a new in-town elementary school; and upgrade the middle school and high school.

Given the range of options, the school board will begin a series of visits to city schools with a tour of the Jefferson Street School at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11.

After the visit, which Superintendent Owen Maurais estimated will last half an hour, the board will move on to the J.A. Leonard Middle School to conduct the rest of its business.

The reason the board can’t continue its meeting at Jefferson Street School is because it is not accessible to the handcappaed. That lack of accessibility is among numerous issues the community must deal with in the months and years ahead.

When the consultants’ study was presented to the public this week, members of the community expressed interest in studying recent actions taken by South Portland, which has been dealing with issues similar to those facing Old Town.

Like Old Town, the southern Maine city is home to numerous aging schools and is in the midst of trying to decide whether to retain its traditional neighborhood schools or consolidate programs.

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