FAIRFIELD — The area school district’s building committee has identified a suitable site for a new school building, and will now proceed to fully evaluate its potential.

Kathryn Cogan of CHA Architecture, a Portland-based firm that is working with the district on the project, gave a presentation to the Maine State Administrative District 49 board of directors on Thursday.

Several of the school buildings in the district are old and in need of replacement. The Maine Department of Education has identified Fairfield Primary School as the state’s number-one school construction priority.

Building a new school also meant considering consolidation — moving students from the district’s three elementary schools and the primary school into one building.

The building committee evaluated the current school buildings as well as ways to incorporate the new building into the district, Cogan said. Benton Elementary was found to be in comparatively good shape. With that in mind, the committee hatched a plan to renovate the Benton building for kindergarten through second grade, along with an expanded pre-kindergarten program. The new building will be used to serve grades three through six.

For the new site, Cogan said, the committee considered about 20 locations, including one already owned by the district, but that option was eliminated because the site doesn’t have a developable area that’s large enough.

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The committee then contacted various landowners to gauge their interest in selling their property. This narrowed down the search to just one location: a plot of land next to Benton Elementary. It meets all of the committee’s criteria, including easy access to utilities; and because it is next to another school, it is considered a “magnet” location which makes it preferable to the Maine DOE.

Cogan said the DOE has indicated that some of the project funds may be used to improve the current traffic circulation around Benton Elementary, especially the areas where parents and bus drivers pick up and drop off students.

Up next, Cogan said, will be evaluations by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation, a traffic study, and more.

“All that work has to happen so that we can demonstrate and prove that this is a good, viable site,” Cogan said.

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