WINSLOW — The school administrators and building committee tasked with consolidating the town’s schools gave its first public presentation Thursday evening to 88 residents at the junior high school auditorium.

The consolidation process started in 2012, Superintendent Eric Haley said, when a study committee began looking at the most feasible solution to the inefficiencies and hazards of the junior high school, which was built in 1928.

“There is a disaster waiting to happen in this building,” Haley said.

The committee concluded that closing the junior high school and moving the seventh- and eighth-graders into the high school and the sixth-graders into the elementary school would be the best and potentially most economical option.

The estimated cost of the consolidation project is $10.33 million, which includes possible demolition costs and a performing arts center.

A number of people in the audience raised concerns about the younger students sharing space with high schoolers, but the proposed design should keep them separate, Haley said.

High school Principal Chad Bell also said he’s never seen a problem between middle and high school students as a teacher and assistant principal at sixth-through-12th-grade schools.

Also, he said, the students are mingling already in shared classes and extracurriculars.

“It’s happening already and it’s safe,” Bell said.

Switching to a seventh-through-12th-grade model will be more efficient overall, Haley said. Teachers’ certifications are for either kindergarten through eighth grade or seventh through 12th grades.

Stephen Blatt, who runs Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland and is designing the project for the committee, presented the preliminary designs at the meeting.

Blatt plans to add 20,000 square feet to the end of the school for nine classrooms and support areas specifically for seventh- and eighth-graders. The addition also will have its own entrance.

The new construction also includes a new performing arts center and renovated space for chorus, band and stage design areas. The total cost is $2.09 million.

“It’s designed to be a teaching facility,” Blatt said, which is the focus for auditoriums being built at schools around the state.

Jenn McCowan, a drama and English teacher, said the subcommittee working on the performing arts center component found that the current auditorium is used all but 19 days of the school year. Most of those days, she said, there are two things going on.

With a larger and more modern space, the schools could continue to expand its drama and music programs, and even host festivals for the town.

About 70 children are involved in just drama at the high school, McCowan said.

“That’s their place. This is what those kids do,” she said. “We owe it to them to give those kids the best facilities that we can.”

For the elementary school, Blatt plans to reroute the drop-off route and add 20 parking spots. The younger children will be kept to the first floor while the older children have classroom spaces on the second floor. He also plans to relocate the front office so that staff can see people before they enter.

Haley also presented estimates of what the town’s future bond could look like.

If paid over 20 years, the town would need to increase taxes by 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value after factoring in costs savings and retired debt. The tax rate would increase by about 30 cents for every $1,000 of property value if the town pays over 30 years, but the town would pay more than $3 million extra in interest.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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