SKOWHEGAN — Stephen Blatt Architects has been selected as the architectural firm to lead the replacement of an elementary school that is saddled with several deficiencies.

The North Elementary School sign frames the front entrance of North Elementary School in Skowhegan. The school is No. 2 on the state Department of Education list of capital construction projects. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

North Elementary School, at 33 Jewett St., qualified for the state’s Major Capital School Construction program, ranking No. 2 out of 74 schools. Completed in 1954, the school originally served students in kindergarten through fourth grade. It now serves about 153 students in prekindergarten and kindergarten. SAD 54 serves about 2,369 students in the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

Superintendent Brent Colbry said at the Jan. 9 school board meeting that the district had sent out applications for architects in December and received six applications by the deadline. After receiving them, the building committee, composed of school administration and board members, narrowed the list down to three applicants. The committee was then tasked to come to a consensus on selecting an architect.

Stephen Blatt Associates is based out of Portland and has also worked with the district previously on Skowhegan Area Middle School and Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock. The firm has worked on several other school projects, including Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland, Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham and Lincoln Middle School in Portland. The firm has received several Excellence in Design Awards from both Maine and New England Chapters of the American Institute of Architects.

Deficiencies at the school are many. Classrooms have multiple uses. Privacy is lacking. Space is inadequate for students to rest in the principal’s office or the nurse’s office. Many windows are exposed to the public and shake from traffic going by and closing doors. The art classroom was created using a part of the gymnasium and has no ceiling, and it cannot be used at the same time that gym classes are held.

Exposed pipes are also a problem at the school. Some heaters in classrooms are unreliable and often overheat. The boys’ bathroom is not wheelchair accessible and there are only two bathrooms for a staff of 41.

In the last two decades, the state has approved 75 projects, though they account for only 30% of the state’s identified needs. Schools are ranked using a points system that evaluates the buildings and grounds, population, and programming and planning. The maximum number of points is 200. North Elementary received a score of 124.60 points.

Also included on the state’s list are SAD 54’s Canaan Elementary at No. 24 with 96.64 points and three Skowhegan schools: Bloomfield Elementary School at No. 23 with 97.03 points; Skowhegan Area High School and Somerset Technical Center at No. 31 with 95.19 points; and Margaret Chase Smith School at No. 45 with 86.01 points.

Of the 74 schools on the list, 20 are within the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal distribution areas. The list is filed under the Department’s Major Capital School Construction Program, which works with school districts to improve the quality and condition of learning facilities for students across the state.

Specifics of the project have not been discussed, though Colbry did schedule a meeting for Feb. 24 with board members and the architectural firm to meet and get to know “the players” of the project.

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