WINSLOW — The Winslow building committee met for the first time Wednesday evening since a referendum question asking residents to support a school bond of $10.33 million failed on Nov. 7, to discuss what they learned from the process and how to move forward with a plan that eventually could be approved by the school board, the Town Council and the public.

That bond would have paid for renovation and expansion of the elementary school and the high school, as the district continues to pursue a plan to close Winslow Junior High School and merge grades six through eight into the others.

With guidance from both the school board and council, the panel acknowledged that its new charge would be to look into an option of housing kindergarten through grade eight in the elementary school building or merging grades seven and eight into the high school. Before the failed bond vote, the committee was charged only with looking into option of creating a grades seven-to-12 structure at the high school. Additionally, the committee will be working with a bond cap of $7.83 million, which does not include the cost of demolishing the old junior high, to create their plan, which the Town Council voted on at its Dec. 11 meeting.

With that in mind, and through much discussion between the committee and the roughly 20 residents in attendance, three primary factors were identified as possible reasons for the bond’s failure. Those factors were that residents thought the $10.33 million price tag was too much, that the kindergarten-through-grade-eight option was not given enough consideration and that the inclusion of the performing arts center on the bond was unnecessary.

Committee member Chad Bell said that when the building meeting originally set out to work out a plan, there was little guidance. He said that there was no direction and no bond cap set by the Town Council.

“We did what we thought we needed to do for our students, and to say anything else is ridiculous,” Bell said, referencing some negativity members have felt from the public. “We decided to go 7-12 for the future of our schools.”

Ray Caron, who sits on the council and serves on the committee, said the council and some of his constituents want to see the panel look more deeply into the kindergarten-through-grade-eight plan and that there needs to be enough information on that option so residents could see why the committee originally pushed for the 7-12 option rather than the K-8 option.

Some committee members said that they previously had looked at bringing sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to the elementary school, back in 2005, but the cost began to mushroom because of additions such as a larger cafeteria, a bigger gymnasium and more parking. Also, there was no existing infrastructure for an auditorium or a performance space.

Caron said the information and data on that option still should be collected so residents would be satisfied in knowing the difference in cost and what the residents would get with either option.

Caron also ended the meeting with one of the more divisive topics of the evening — the performing arts center. He said he thought some committee members would not support the bond as long at the auditorium and performing space was attached to it. He brought up the idea of it being included in a separate bond down the road because the others thought the facility was unnecessary.

Another councilor at the meeting, Steve Russell, said councilors probably would support the addition of a performing arts center as long as it could be done within the bond cap price of $7.83 million.

Superintendent Eric Haley said it was a sad statement that some people would be willing to add something such as a second gymnasium but were not open to having a performing arts center.

The meeting ended with a call from Bell that everyone work together. “This divisiveness needs to stop,” he said.

The next building committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.