AUBURN — Edward Little High School is in just the right place.

After considering 47 alternative locations, Auburn school officials announced Friday that a new state-funded high school due to open in 2023 will be constructed at the current site at 77 Harris St.

“This is what our community has been waiting for,” Superintendent Katy Grondin said. “This day has been a long time coming, and now it’s here. We’re very excited to move ahead in planning a state-of-the-art school that everyone in Auburn can be proud of.”

During the past year, the building committee evaluated sites throughout Auburn, including tours of five potential locations that most closely aligned to the selection criteria identified by the community and the Maine Department of Education. In the end, the clear choice was to remain at the site that ELHS has called home since the current building opened in 1961.

At a community forum in August 2017, Auburn residents ranked their top priorities for the new school. The top three criteria to emerge were the ability to locate all athletic fields on one site; proximity to population density; and the ability for the school to act as an economic draw to bring people to Auburn.

“The current site checked off the most boxes on the community’s wish list,” building committee member Beth Favreau said.

School officials say the current location not only offers proximity to Auburn’s student population, but said project architects from Harriman Associates believe the existing site will be able to accommodate the majority, if not all, of the athletic fields used throughout the year by students at Edward Little.

“The building committee worked hard to look at every possibility that would meet the community’s priorities,” Grondin said, “for a site that is centrally located and able to accommodate the building and athletic fields.”

The site selection process encompassed more than 50 meetings involving the building committee, its subcommittees, the DOE, landowners and state regulatory agencies. During the process, members of the building committee visited new public school locations in Maine and Massachusetts to gain a sense of recent initiatives and possibilities in public school construction.

In 2016, the DOE announced that Auburn had been approved for a new high school based on an application submitted in 2011. The project will be fully funded by the state with the exception of optional items that could be added locally to the project. These local options are yet to be decided, but could include a performing arts center and artificial turf athletic fields.

The next steps are formal approval by the Auburn School Committee in August, followed by a community meeting and “straw poll” to be held Sept. 5 at Auburn Middle School.

The straw poll is a non-binding vote designed to measure the community’s support for the proposed location. Pending Maine Board of Education site approval this fall, a referendum vote will be scheduled for June 2019 for Auburn voters to authorize the project.

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