SKOWHEGAN — School Administrative District  54 Superintendent Brent Colbry, at Thursday’s board of directors meeting, sought to dispel confusion about the new school project, describing the process the architectural firm is taking in putting a plan together.

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 file photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

North Elementary School, located at 33 Jewett St., qualified for the state’s Major Capital School Construction program, scoring enough points in the state’s ranking system to finish at No. 2 in a list of 74 schools.

Last month, the school board selected Stephen Blatt Architects as the architectural firm to lead the project. Colbry said on Thursday that it is not completely guaranteed that a new campus will be built as other accommodations are also being looked at.

“The state comes in and looks at the needs and identified that North El needs to be renovated or replaced,” Colbry said. “When they come into a school system, they like to comprehensively see how that school compares to others (and to see if) there is a way to address multiple issues rather than just one.”

The architects are creating a plan, the superintendent said, and this includes looking at other schools in the area to see their conditions and deciding if a renovation is necessary or a new building.

“The task is to look at all of these schools and see if they can be renovated to modern standards and to provide modern opportunities for all kids,” Colbry said.

North Elementary is riddled with deficiencies. Classrooms have multiple uses, making storage space difficult to find and contributing to a lack of privacy. There is not an adequate amount of space where students may rest in the office or the nurse’s office. Many windows are exposed to the public and shake from closing doors and traffic going by. The art classroom was created using a part of the gymnasium and has no ceiling and 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. Bathrooms are also a problem. The boys’ bathroom is not wheelchair accessible and only two bathrooms exist for a staff of 41.

Schools are ranked using a points system that evaluates the buildings and grounds, population, and programming and planning. Out of a possible 200 points, North Elementary received a score of 124.6 points.

Also included on the state’s list are MSAD 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.

MSAD 54 serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

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