After failing to garner enough support to pass a $10.33 million school bond in November, the Winslow building committee is ready to pitch another plan to close the junior high school and create new space to accommodate the affected sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, members of the 25-person committee expect to present a scaled-back version of the original plan. The new $8.6 million proposal includes funds to build program space for seventh- and eighth-grade students at the high school, a 430-seat auditorium, auxiliary gymnasium expansion and food service expansion. The plan also includes money to renovate the elementary school in order to add space for sixth-grade students.

The original plan included a 600-seat auditorium for visual and performing arts, which became a major point of contention for critics who said the auditorium was unnecessary.

Joel Selwood, the chairman of the Winslow School Board, said in an interview Friday that if the visual and performing arts program grows in the future, which he believes it will, the school easily will be able to add more seats to the back of the auditorium by removing the back wall.

The committee voted unanimously, 23-0, with two members absent, to recommend that plan to the School Board, which will review it. If the board approves it, it will send the proposal to the Town Council. The council then would decide whether to send the bond to voters in a referendum.

The committee will make it presentation to the council before the school board meets Feb. 26 to discuss the plan.

While the council instructed the committee to cap the bond proposal at $7.83 million, Alternative Organizational Structure 92 Superintendent Eric Haley believes the savings from consolidation, with personnel and maintenance costs reduced, could make up the difference between the council’s cap and the committee’s proposal.

However, if the costs don’t make up that $770,000 difference, Selwood said the $16.74 property tax rate would increase only by about one-tenth of a mill, or $1.67 per $1,000 property valuation.

The committee vetted two other plans that members of the public wanted the panel to explore, but when they were each put up for a vote, they both were rejected unanimously.

The first of the rejected projects was a pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade configuration. That plan would cost the town $9.6 million, which would include money to build classroom space for sixth-through-eighth-grade students, as well as money to add a new gymnasium, a band room, food service expansion and space for administration and a school nurse.

In addition to the larger price tag, Assistant Superintendent Peter Thiboutot said the committee rejected the plan because the sixth-through-eighth-grade students would lose a commons area, which is a place for those students to congregate. Also, Thiboutot said the project architect, Stephen Blatt, told the committee that the $9.6 million for such a renovation probably was a conservative estimate and that many more changes could be made, which would add more expenses, because the nature of the project is to integrate students who are larger in size into a school sized for smaller children.

The other idea that the committee rejected was a proposal for a school with grades 7 through 12 that would cost $7.52 million, but it would not include any addition of an auditorium. Instead of a performing space, additional classrooms for band, chorus, art and music support would be built onto the high school. If a decision to build an auditorium in the future was made, the classroom space built through this plan would have to be knocked down, Selwood said.

In an earlier building committee meeting, Ray Caron, who sits on the council and the committee, said he thought some councilors would not support the bond as long as the auditorium and performing space were attached to it.

But on Friday, Thiboutot said the auditorium was integral to the school’s program and that 62 percent of the students enrolled in Winslow schools have participated in the visual and performing arts programs that are offered this year. There are also six students who graduated from Winslow schools who now major in theater in college.

“Kids actually go off and do this stuff,” Selwood said.

Haley said the auditorium gives students who are talented in drama and music a place to perform, just as a gymnasium gives athletes a place to perform.

“They may not have an athletic talent, but boy, they have a talent,” Haley said. “It’s just a beautiful thing to watch when they get to perform on a stage.”

Haley, Thiboutot and Selwood are expected to be among the committee members who present this plan to the council at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Town Office.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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