Devastation to Waterville schools facilities Director Doug Frame’s family property in Belgrade from Wednesday’s destructive storm has forced the postponement of a public forum scheduled for Thursday night on school building plans, the superintendent said.

The forum had been scheduled to discuss a controversial proposal to build a $6.12 million addition to Waterville Junior High School to house fourth- and fifth-graders. Some parents have urged officials to consider building an addition at George J. Mitchell School rather than at the junior high, saying it’s more appropriate to keep elementary school-age children together.

Frame, who is responsible for maintenance of all school buildings and properties, was to be an integral part of the presentation and question-and-answer session at Thursday night’s forum, which had been scheduled for 6 p.m. at Trask Auditorium at Waterville Senior High School. The storms that blew through central Maine late Wednesday afternoon brought high wind gusts and torrential rain, toppling trees across the region and cutting power to nearly 2,000 people.

Schools Superintendent Eric Haley and Finance Director Paula Pooler said early Thursday that Frame reported the power was out at the Belgrade property, trees were down and roads blocked. It is expected to take days to clean up the damage, they said.

Haley said around 8 a.m. he notified parents and others of the forum postponement via a recorded phone message.

“I just put out a robocall and said our hope is to reschedule it next week,” Haley said.

Luke Brooks-Shesler, a parent of two elementary school students, said Thursday that he understood the reasons for the forum postponement.

“Obviously, from my point of view, if the community forum can’t happen today because of the storms in Belgrade, then obviously we need to take care of these people and hope people recover from the storm,” he said Thursday.

Brooks-Shesler said it is not important when the forum is rescheduled, as long as it is within a reasonable amount of time. “We need to attend a forum when it’s possible for everybody to be there and when acts of God occur, there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

The Waterville Board of Education must approve any plan the district comes up with for the Albert S. Hall School students.

At a meeting of the board Monday, Brooks-Shelser and other parents asked questions about the proposal to build an addition onto the junior high during the public comment section of the agenda. They said they were asking questions which they thought would help school officials prepare for the public forum, which school board members are not required to attend.

He also expressed concern that the proposal to build an addition to the junior high seemed pretty far along and parents were unaware the process was occurring. While some board members said they have not yet discussed the proposal fully, they did talk about it recently in an executive session.

Board of Education Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy said said she contacted all board members, saying she hoped they would attend the public forum either in person or virtually.

“I have written and encouraged them to do that,” she said.

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