The Gardiner-area school district is considering consolidating its four elementary schools and will move forward with a request for a proposal to figure out the next steps.  

Maine School Administrative District 11 officials believe if the four elementary schools — Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School in Pittston, Helen Thompson School in West Gardiner, River View Community School and Laura E. Richards School, both in Gardiner — consolidated into one school, the district and taxpayers would save millions of dollars in building facility costs per budget season.

At Tuesday night’s finance committee meeting, the committee had a preliminary discussion on moving forward in the process and if it’s something the board wants to explore. Some board members had mixed emotions over the cost of building a new school, but overall the committee members agreed with the idea of having one elementary school.  

The committee voted to move forward with the bid process to have an engineer survey the schools to determine the potential costs of the project. The Department of Education recommended surveying Gardiner Regional Middle School and Gardiner Area High School as well.  

Superintendent Pat Hopkins believes the study to survey the buildings will cost around $25,000, which Business Manager Andrea Disch said the district could do and she “would be in favor” of spending. Hopkins said the proposal will only be pursued by the district if the entire board agrees to move forward.

The potential cost of a new building could be around $75 million, Hopkins estimated. 


“We have talked about this – if you have one building (for the elementary school), you can easily cut $1 million from the budget without even thinking,” Hopkins said. “But there are still hard decisions to make.”

MSAD 11 has six school buildings, including the middle and high schools, and has around 1,920 students in the system. The district serves Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston and Randolph.  

Board members mentioned the idea of consolidating the four elementary schools during the past budget season, and spoke of it as something to investigate as the district’s spending plan gets higher each year. The MSAD 11 budget for the current school year is $30.1 million.

The district has not discussed anything further, such as where the school would be constructed or other logistics. 

Hopkins and the board said by having one building, class sizes could be more consistent and all grade levels would be in the same building. Over time, the district could save money by having fewer renovations and repairs and lower fuel costs, among other savings. 

“We don’t have any money to cut out of the budget and year after year it’s the thing that mystifies taxpayers,” board chair Becky Fles said at the Tuesday meeting. “So, the place we can cut is if we don’t have four buildings to support.” 


The Maine Department of Education has programs to help school districts upgrade and repair their schools, and MSAD 11 could be a recipient if the state sees the need or likely cost savings to taxpayers. 

The School Revolving Renovation Fund helps schools repair space in the school for anything along the lines of safety, health and accessibility, with portions of project costs funded by the school district. The fund helped pave the Winthrop Grade School parking lots, for example.  

The Maine Capital Schools Construction Program helped Auburn build the $126 million new Edward Little High School, with the state pitching in 88%.  

Board member Chris McLaughlin wondered if the potential cost of a bond would outweigh the savings. To his point, taxpayers of Auburn will pay 11%, or $15.2 million, of the cost of the new school over a 20-year period. 

“My biggest concern is the money to taxpayers,” McLaughlin said. “I know I asked a while ago and we aren’t quite there yet, but I’m wondering the capital cost, the savings in facilities and staffing versus what we save in a bond or what we can pay. It depends on what the state can pay, and we are a long way from seeing numbers.” 

Hopkins said that if the district moves forward with the consolidation, the existing facilities could go to the municipalities for other uses, like affordable housing and office space, among other options.  

MSAD 11 previously turned the former Randolph-area T.C. Hamlin Elementary School into the Margaret Murphy Center for special student services. 

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