The Albert S. Hall School in Waterville is shown last September. Plans to build a new Hall School as an addition to Waterville Junior High School have stalled. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — Plans to build a proposed $12.9 million, 32,000-square-foot addition to Waterville Junior High School that would be the new Albert S. Hall School for fourth- and fifth-graders is now on hold.

The Waterville Board of Education on Monday agreed with a recommendation from Schools Superintendent Eric Haley that the project be halted after he reported funding will be needed for air quality and safety improvements to Waterville Senior High School.

Haley said the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Inc. threatened to pull its accreditation if work on high school improvements is not undertaken.

“I don’t believe that financially we can do both,” he said of the Hall and high school projects.

The initial estimate to build the Hall School addition to the junior high was $6.1 million, of which the district had $3.4 million in federal money for COVID-19-related needs, Haley said. That price escalated to about $13 million and now the district has $3.1 million in COVID-19 funds, he said. Haley asked recently that all “redundant” items in the Hall School plan be eliminated such as a music room and library which already are in the junior high. That slashing reduced the total plan only to $12.1 million, he said.

Work to the high school would include renovating and installing a new air circulation system in the gymnasium which was built in 1962, renovating classrooms and the kitchen, doing more work to the auditorium and other needs.


The city would have to borrow much of the money for the work.

“They’re already starting the conversation,” Haley said of city officials.

He also said the schools have spent $361,513 of COVID-19 funding on companies that worked on the Hall School project, and that must be repaid to the federal government, per federal regulations for unfinished projects.

“When is the $361,000 due and how do we pay it?” board member Greg Bazakas asked.

“I don’t know that yet,” Haley said.

Board Chairperson Joan Phillips-Sandy and board member Pat Helm said the plans for the new Hall School are ideal and should be kept at hand for when the project can launch, though officials agreed that time is unknown.


The existing Hall School on Pleasant Street is a century old and has an array of problems, such as classrooms that are too small, lead paint and likely asbestos. COVID-19 and the health requirements that came with it, such as ensuring social distancing, sped up efforts to replace the school, prompting officials to plan for building the addition for about 280 fourth- and fifth-graders, plus staff. The Hall School also does not have space for an adequate playground or parking lot.

In June 2021, officials held a public forum about a proposed junior high addition, which at the time was estimated to be 18,000 square feet in size, would cost $6.12 million and was expected to be funded with federal CARES Act money. At the time, some parents said they were concerned about putting fourth- and fifth-graders in the same building as junior high students. But while the new Hall School was proposed initially to share a gymnasium, cafeteria, music and art rooms with the junior high, it essentially would be a separate school with a separate entrance, school officials said.

Matthew Winch, principal at Garrison Consulting, the architect for the addition, said at a April 25 board meeting that the new addition would include a front entrance, classrooms, administrative area for the school principal, social support services, guidance counselors and nurse’s room with exam room and bathroom on the first level. Also, music, art and computer rooms, as well as teacher and staff areas, bathrooms and a mechanical room on that level. The second level would be a smaller footprint with a large open lobby extending from the first to the second level. Also on the second level would be classrooms, support spaces, Title I areas, life skills space with a kitchen, and bathrooms and an elevator.

The goal at the time was to break ground on the project this month and be completed for school opening in 2023 — about a year.

In other matters Monday, Assistant Superintendent Peter Hallen reported a plan to move the Waterville Alternative School to a former office building in Winslow fell through when it was determined renovations and fire code safety needs would be too costly. The building, which has egress problems, would need a sprinkler system and central fire alarm system.

However, Hallen worked with Kennebec Valley Community College, which is welcoming the alternative school in two furnished rooms at the Carter building on the Fairfield campus. The alternative school, which has 35 students, is currently housed at the Maine Children’s Home on Silver Street in Waterville, but the home has said it needs to reclaim that space.

“All in all, a bad situation turned into something that I think can be extraordinarily positive,” Hallen said.

Phillips-Sandy agreed.

“I think it’s a great opportunity on a lot of levels, so thank you,” she told Hallen.

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