AUGUSTA — Augusta will seek state funding to replace Lillian Parks Hussey Elementary School.

The school board voted 5-0 Thursday to apply for state school construction funding to replace the school, which was built in 1954 and is the oldest of the city’s four public elementary schools.

State approval wouldn’t necessarily result in a new school, Superintendent James Anastasio told board members Thursday.

Anastasio said the application notes the need for new classroom space in Augusta to replace the aging classrooms at Hussey. He said if the application for state funding is successful, the state, instead of providing money to build a school to replace the current one, could push Augusta to move Hussey’s students to other schools or consider other ways to address the need for more modern classroom space.

“The end result may not be anything we think is going to happen,” Anastasio said. The state “may ask us to look at consolidation. They may say they don’t want four elementary schools.”

He said whether the current Hussey Elementary site would be an adequate spot for a new school also would need to be considered.

Anastasio noted the application is not binding, so even if it is successful and approved by the state, Augusta would not be committed to do anything. He said any action toward building a school or taking other steps would require another vote by the school board.

Augusta’s previous application seeking state school construction funding to replace the same elementary school was ranked 17th on the state’s funding priority list the last time projects were selected for state funding, in 2010-2011. The state ended up funding 16 projects, leaving Augusta, and any other projects rated less favorably, out.

The next state school construction funding cycle is coming up in 2017-2018, with a new priority list expected to be released in the summer of 2018, according to Rachel Paling, director of communications for the state Department of Education.

From that list, Paling said, the Department of Education, its commissioner and the state Board of Education will decide which schools will get funding, based upon variables including the amount of money made available for school construction projects.

“We’ll just keep our fingers crossed,” said Deborah Towle, Ward 2 board member.

While board members didn’t discuss what building problems they seek to address, at a March 1 school board meeting during a discussion about the school budget, John Pucciarelli, director of buildings and grounds, told board members problems at Hussey include bathrooms and floors so old they’re hard to clean, worn-out plumbing and a lack of ventilation. He said classroom ventilation at the school now consists only of a chimney system in which there is a hole in the coat closet in the back of each room that vents directly to the roof. The roof also still needs repairs, though structural deficiencies in it were fixed recently.

The roof at Hussey underwent structural repair just last year, after city voters approved a referendum question to “borrow” $338,000 from the state school revolving renovation fund. The city, under the program’s rules, must pay back only $167,321 of the loan, with no interest. The state will forgive the other $170,429 though the program, which is funded through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

But Pucciarelli told board members the state agreed to fund only structural repairs, and the roof still is in need of other repairs, to its surface.

Pucciarelli said Augusta’s chances of being successful with its application for school construction funding for Hussey will not be hurt by the roof structure repair having been done recently at the school.

The state’s application deadline for the school construction funding process is April 14.

Hussey, one of the city’s four elementary schools, was built in 1954 as part of a decadelong effort to update and consolidate schools to educate baby boomers, according to application materials filed in support of the former Hodgkins Middle School being added to the National Register of Historic Places. Hussey’s construction was followed in 1956 by the former Buker Middle School, which is now the Buker Community Center; and, in 1958 by the former Hodgkins Middle School, which is now Hodgkins School Apartments.

Even if Augusta’s application for funding is successful and the Hussey replacement project is selected, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be funded to begin construction right away.

The highest-ranked project on the 2010-2011 priority list, Regional School Unit 64’s Morison Memorial School, was approved by the state Board of Education in 2012. The last approved project on the 2010-2011 priority list, Auburn School Department’s Edward Little High School, was approved for funding by the state Board of Education in 2016, and construction of a new school has not yet begun.

The last public school built in Augusta was the current Cony High School, which opened in 2006.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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