Last week, I began a series on school safety and will resume this topic in next week's newsletter. In the meantime, I felt it was important to provide an update on the new school project as a substantive development has occurred.
The path to finding a permanent long-term solution to the district's enrollment growth-past, current, and projected-has been a long and winding one. Since 2019, with the pandemic affording a brief interlude, the Board and administration have sought the right location and school size that would meet the needs of students and staff, while also being acceptable to the voters and taxpayers.
As you know, the project designed for 80 Gray Road in North Yarmouth failed at the polls in November 2022. Since then, the project budget has subsequently increased by $10 million due to inflation, and efforts have been made to remove $8.5 million from the original design to bring it down to $74.5 million, still more than a year ago, but with fewer features.
In July, the SAD closed on the voter-approved 2.3 acres of abutting land to the campus, requiring us to update our master site plan. I asked that part of this site plan update include a definitive answer as to whether or not a school building could be placed on the newly acquired property. This exercise confirmed that a small school building of approx. 65,000 sqf could conceivably be built if other improvements were made to traffic patterns, parking capacity, and play space on campus.
On November 6, with this new information in hand, I recommended to the Board of Directors that an on-campus school project be fully vetted, given the many benefits of such a plan proceeding:
- Retains a one campus model that has been in place since 2014
- Aligns with the 2019 Steering Committee’s small school model for the district's youngest students
- Shared services PK-12 has worked well over the last decade
- Proximity to first responders, such as police, fire, and EMT
- Removes modular classrooms at all facilities
- Transportation convenience and efficiency
- Moves 4th grade out of GMS
- Designated expansion areas at MIW and GMS could counteract any unforeseen enrollment growth and respond to changing enrollment conditions
- Project cost and annual operating expenses expected to be considerably less than the 80 Gray Road plan
I realize this may appear to be a flip-flop from the 80 Gray Road plan that has been the focus of our efforts over the last two years in finding a solution to our schools' growing enrollment. However, conditions have changed and new information is available that requires us to do our due diligence about this potential new site. The MSAD #51 Board of Directors will be debating this recommendation and its accompanying steps over the next few weeks. To review the entire recommendation, click HERE.
Next week: Safety series resumes: Coordination with first responders and school-based law enforcement.