SKOWHEGAN — Progress is continuing on plans to build a new elementary school in Skowhegan, with officials hoping to break ground in June 2023 and open the school in the fall of 2025.

The building committee for Maine School Administrative District 54 met Wednesday to review programming options and other developments for the building that would replace North Elementary School.

North Elementary at 33 Jewett St.is ranked second out of 74 schools the state has deemed most in need of new or improved facilities. First on the list: Fairfield Primary School.

North Elementary school opened in 1954 and now enrolls about 165 students in prekindergarten and kindergarten.

Several of the district’s schools — including Bloomfield Elementary, Skowhegan Area High School/Somerset Career & Technical Center and Margaret Chase Smith School — are on the state list.

MSAD 54, which enrolls students from Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield, hired Stephen Blatt Architectss of Portland last year to lead the new school project.

District officials have identified the site of Margaret Chase Smith School on Heselton Street as the location best suited for a new school. In a straw poll in May, community members voted in support of the building committee’s recommendation to build there. The land on which North Elementary School is located in considered too small for a new school.

Administrators said they are more than a third of the way through a 21-step review-and-approval process and are working on concept designs.

“At steps seven and eight, we are having ongoing meetings with the Maine Department of Education,” MSAD 54 Superintendent Jon Moody said. “This has been an exciting part of the process, as the stakeholders are helping shape what the building and programming will look like in our new school.”

Once the concept design phase is completed, the project would need DOE approval, design and funding approval and final funding approval, according to officials.

Moody said he expects a referendum on the concept design and cost of the project late this winter or in the spring.

In conversations with staff members, Brent Colbry, a member of the building committee and former MSAD 54 superintendent, said “people aren’t asking for crazy things.”

“Most staff that we’ve met with are asking for more room and more space,” Colbry said. “The things they are articulating are reasonable.”

Committee members also asked about parking at the new school, and about commemorating the Margaret Chase Smith School, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2025.

Although the layout and design of the new school have yet to be decided, plans call for it to enroll about 600 students in prekindergarten through third grade who the district now serves through partnerships with the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP), Educare and the Maine Early Learning Investment Group.

Moody said students from the “older grades” at North Elementary School, Bloomfield Elementary School, Margaret Chase Smith School and Canaan Elementary School would also move over to the new school.

“Canaan Elementary School will change from a prekindergarten-through-six building to a prekindergarten-through-second-grade building,” Moody said.

The district has scheduled three public hearings in the coming weeks to discuss the project, receive feedback and answer questions. The hearings are scheduled for:

• Sept. 30: 6 p.m. at Canaan Elementary School, 178 Main St.

• Oct. 14: 6 p.m. at Skowhegan Area High School, 61 Academy Circle.

• Oct. 28: 6 p.m. over the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

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