A public forum to discuss a controversial proposal to build a $6.12 million addition to Waterville Junior High School has been rescheduled for this week.

The delay was caused by last week’s storm, which heavily damage the personal property of a key official needed to make the presentation to the public.

On Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m. at Trask Auditorium at Waterville Senior High School, community members are invited to learn about and discuss the planned addition.

The proposed two-story, 18,000-square-foot addition, with 10,000 square feet on the first floor and 8,000 on the second, would — if approved — be built with federal CARES Act funds that must be spent by September 2023, according to Superintendent Eric Haley.

The meeting was initially scheduled last week, but devastation to Waterville schools facilities Director Doug Frame’s family property in Belgrade during a rain and wind storm led to its postponement. Frame will serve as an integral part of the presentation and question-and-answer section of the forum.

The Waterville Board of Education must approve any plan the district comes up with for the Albert S. Hall School students. Thursday’s meeting is not an official board meeting, and board members are not required to be present, though they have been contacted by Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy and informed about the meeting.

Concerns about the proposed building project have been raised at previous board meetings, including from Luke Brooks-Shelser, a parent of two elementary school students. At the June 28 meeting, Brooks-Shelser and other parents questioned members about the proposal to build an addition onto the junior high during the public comment section of the agenda, adding that asking these questions now would help officials prepare for the upcoming forum.

Some parents have urged officials to consider building an addition at George J. Mitchell School rather than the junior high, citing that it’s more appropriate to house elementary-age children together.

Though parents have said at these meetings that an addition should instead be constructed at the George J. Mitchell School, which is an elementary school, Haley has said that the school is not a viable option.

Currently, George J. Mitchell School, at 58 Drummond Ave., houses grades kindergarten through three; grades four and five are housed at Albert S. Hall School, at 27 Pleasant St., and grades six through eight at Waterville Junior High at 100 West River Road.

Building an addition to the Mitchell School would significantly reduce the size of the playground there, whereas the junior high site allows for a large playground. About 250 students attended Albert S. Hall School during the recently completed school year.

Albert S. Hall School is located in a largely residential area and is the last city school that does not have a campus or adequate-sized parking lot and playground. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has required students and staff to have more space in schools, according to school officials.

Adding to the east side of the junior high would provide the space that school officials are looking for while keeping two separate entities.

Haley has said that the addition at the junior high would “still be a separate school with a separate entrance and keep its own identity.”

Grades four and five would utilize the cafeteria, music room and art room when other students are elsewhere.

The plan must first be approved by the Waterville Board of Education and Waterville Planning Board as any additions to buildings of 2,000 or more square feet require planning review.

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