July 16, 2020

SAD 22 eyes land for school project

HAMPDEN – The proposed expansion and renovation project at Hampden Academy could involve purchasing abutting land, the SAD 22 assistant superintendent told the board of directors Wednesday.

WBRC Architects in Bangor has suggested that Hampden Academy purchase the former fire station across the street, the Rite Aid building on one side of the school, or a former dormitory on the other side of the school, Assistant Superintendent Emil Genest said.

“We’re landlocked and we need to do something,” he said during a presentation on the project’s preliminary plans.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” he said.

The project, which could include a performing arts center, calls for six new classrooms and upgraded science laboratories, according to Genest and Lewis Aurelio, a member of the board’s building committee.

Other possibilities are to combine the technical education building and the current wing four or to build a second story, Genest said.

The town will know in March or April whether the state will help fund the project, Superintendent Rick Lyons said.

Representatives from the Maine Department of Education plan to tour the site next week so they can rate the district’s application.

The state has received 103 applications for construction aid, Lyons said. If Hampden is ranked in the top 15 or 20, the chance of obtaining funding is likely.

But even if the state turns down the district’s application, construction plans should move forward because the school is overcrowded, Lyons said.

Board members agreed to include protocol for fund raising on the next agenda after Director Joe Watson said the owner of a local business complained about schools’ constant requests for money.

“They support the schools and the budget and then bang, [the school] wants more money,” Watson said.

“Every time the board approves a trip or fund-raiser, they’re the ones hit.”

Director Arlene Nicholson sympathized. “We need to take a look at the full picture,” she said. “Parents and families are getting hit more than businesses. Everyone’s raising money. It needs to be brought under control. If it’s important enough to have it’s important enough to fund.”

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