Earlier this week, Director of Finance, Human Resources & Operations Scott Poulin and I presented a proposed Short-Term Facilities Plan to the Board of Directors for consideration. This plan bridges the gap for the next 5 years, which is the minimum timeframe before a potential longer-term plan could be implemented following the unsuccessful school bond referendum last November. Though not ideal, this short-term plan helps to alleviate some of the pressure posed by increasing enrollment and space constraints that currently exist and will continue until at least 2032. Though Maine as a whole will see significant student enrollment decreases in grades K-12 over the next decade, MSAD #51 is one of a handful of school districts in the state expected to keep growing during the same period.
The plan calls for a phased approach starting in July 2023, with Phase I focused on Mabel I. Wilson School. The school currently has 14 modular classrooms on its grounds, but it is not enough going forward. Phase I includes adding a second modular building at MIW containing 12 classrooms, demolition of Tuttletown accompanied by the construction of a new playground, removal of two smaller modular units, and expansion of the perimeter fence line to provide more play space at the school. Phase I is expected to be completed by the time school starts in late August 2023 and would provide needed relief from overcrowded conditions that first began back in 2016.
Phase II would take place during the summer of 2024 at Greely Middle School. In order to accommodate current and future enrollment at the school, this plan would remove the 7 modular classrooms on the grounds and replace them with a 12-classroom unit similar to the structure currently at MIW. Depending on the timeline for a long-term plan going forward, it is possible that GMS will need a second 12-classroom unit by 2026-27 if a permanent solution is not close to fruition at that time.
This Monday evening, the Board will meet for a special workshop to restart preliminary discussions around a long-term, permanent solution to the district's space constraints. The Short-term Plan is the best plan we can activate for the next 5 years, but it is a temporary measure only that is not adequate for the long-term. The fact remains that the community is very much in need of a fourth school building to educate its expanding student population for the 21st Century. The Board will be deliberating on the process, timeframe, and scope of a school project that can both meet the needs of students, while balancing the community's ability to financially support the project.