Building Project » Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

MSAD #51

Proposed Primary School & One Campus Sustainability Project FAQ's

This serves as a guide to understanding the proposed primary school project at MSAD #51. The goal is to provide a clear and detailed overview of the reasons behind this initiative, its current status, and the various factors influencing the decision-making process.

General Questions

A: The MSAD #51 Proposed Project aims to address the challenges of increasing student enrollment and overcrowding in our schools. The goal is to build a new school that provides sufficient space and modern facilities for an enhanced educational experience. This initiative is crucial for ensuring that our students have the resources and environment necessary for their success, fostering optimal learning conditions. We believe that by working together as a community, we can achieve a solution that benefits both our students and the community as a whole. This project also addresses many components that are necessary to sustain a one-campus model.

In short: The project is about building a new school to manage overcrowding and improve learning environments for our growing student population, including accompanying projects to sustain a one-campus model.
A:  Building a new school now is a strategic decision to address current overcrowding and enhance learning environments. Delaying construction could lead to higher costs due to inflation and increasing construction and interest rates. Proactive steps are being taken to manage these challenges efficiently and to provide our students with the required space and facilities as soon as possible.
In short: Now is the right time to build a new school to tackle overcrowding and avoid future increased costs.
A:  Since 2019, the district has explored various options, including an off-campus site at 80 Gray Road, which did not receive voter approval. A turning point came in July 2023 with the acquisition of 2.3 adjacent acres, allowing us to consider building a new school on our existing campus. This option aligns with our goal of creating a unified educational environment that meets our growing needs while retaining the community feel of our campus.
In short: The on-campus option emerged as a feasible solution following the acquisition of additional land, offering a unified and community-focused educational environment.
  • Cohesive Educational Environment: The plan maintains a one-campus model, ensuring a unified and continuous educational experience for our students.
  • Alignment with Small School Model: It supports the 2019 Steering Committee’s recommendation for smaller schools, particularly for younger students, promoting personalized learning experiences.
  • Cost Savings through Shared Services: Utilizing shared services between PK-12 and existing infrastructure helps in keeping operational costs lower.
  • Enhanced Safety: The school's proximity to first responders like police, fire, and EMT services ensures rapid emergency response.
  • Improved Learning Environment: The removal of modular classrooms at all facilities contributes to a better learning atmosphere for students.
  • Efficient Transportation: The plan supports existing bus routes, potentially reducing the need for additional bus drivers and simplifying student transportation.
  • Balanced School Structure: Relocating the 4th grade from GMS helps in achieving a more balanced and effective school structure.
  • Future Expansion Possibilities: Designated areas at MIW and GMS allow for expansion to accommodate unforeseen enrollment growth and changing conditions.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: The project cost and annual operating expenses are expected to be considerably lower than the alternative 80 Gray Road plan, aligning with the district's commitment to fiscal responsibility.
In short: The recommended plan offers a cohesive educational environment, financial efficiency, enhanced safety, improved learning conditions, and adaptability to future needs.
A: Since November 2019, the District has undertaken extensive due diligence for the new primary school project. Initially, the Elementary Education Steering Committee, guided by the Strategic Plan, recommended the need for a new primary school to the Board of Directors. Key points from their high-level summary included recognizing MSAD #51 as a four-facility district, the need for adaptable facilities for fluctuating enrollment, the long-term investment and educational benefits of a smaller school for young learners, and various factors like projected enrollment, space study, student needs, curricular goals, sustainability, safety, fiscal responsibility, and balancing district facilities.

Further reinforcing this, a fourth enrollment study completed in November/December 2023 corroborated previous studies from 2016 and 2019, projecting an increase in enrollment by 350-400 students over the next decade. This increase is in addition to the 200 students added at MIW since 2016, highlighting the urgency for a new school for long-term sustainability.

Over the past three years, the project has seen the involvement of an 18-member steering committee, two building committees, analysis of three site locations, and deliberation over three architectural concept designs, ensuring a thorough and comprehensive evaluation for the project.

In short: Through comprehensive studies, committee recommendations, and extensive planning over the past few years, the District has rigorously ensured due diligence for the new primary school project, confirming its necessity and long-term sustainability for MSAD #51.
A: To provide a comprehensive overview of the proposed primary school project, consider the following key factors and elements:
  • Location: The plan maintains a one-campus model, ensuring a cohesive and continuous PK-12 educational experience for our students in one location.
  • Small School Model: It supports the 2019 Elementary Steering Committee’s recommendation for smaller schools, particularly for younger students, promoting personalized learning experiences.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: The project cost and annual operating expenses are considerably lower than the alternative 80 Gray Road plan, aligning with the district's commitment to fiscal responsibility. Compare the on-campus $53.5 million plan to the $74.6 million 80 Gray Road project, a 35% drop in price.
  • Eliminates Temporary Classrooms: This plan discontinues use of temporary classrooms (modulars) which cost $600,000 in lease payments each year, money that could be reallocated to debt service for a new school instead. The district has expended $3,857,039 over the last decade on temporary space leases and set up costs.
  • Cost Savings through Shared Services: Utilizing shared services between PK-12 and existing infrastructure helps in keeping operational costs 44% lower than 80 Gray Road plan.
  • Enhanced Safety: The school's proximity to first responders like police, fire, and EMT services ensures rapid emergency response.
  • Improved Learning Environment: The removal of modular classrooms at all facilities contributes to a better learning atmosphere for students, along with more play and open space on the campus.
  • Efficient Transportation: The plan supports existing bus routes, eliminating the need for several additional buses and drivers, while providing parents/guardians with efficiency in drop off and pick up.
  • Balanced School Structure: Relocating the 4th grade to MIW offers a dedicated elementary setting, eliminates overcrowding at GMS, and discontinues the challenge of operating two school programs under the same roof.
  • Future Expansion Possibilities: Designated areas at the new school, MIW,  and GMS allow for expansion to accommodate unforeseen enrollment growth and changing conditions.
  • More for Your Money:
    • New PK-1 school building on campus (capacity 550 students with expansion capability for 650 students)
      Additional abutting land purchase of 0.5 acre
    • Addition of 4 new classrooms at MIW for grades 2-4, ensuring  long-term capacity
    • Improvements at MIW: windows, doors, bathrooms, roof repairs, special rooms (STEM, etc)
    • New Maintenance building construction, relocation of equipment to enhance safety
    • Traffic circulation, road, and parking upgrades on the school campus
    • Off-site improvements (additional turn lanes on Main Street and Tuttle Rd) to help ease access in and out of the campus, especially at the beginning and end of school days
    • Synthetic turf field (PFAS-free, alternative infill, recyclable) to sustain a one-campus model with increased use of field time and play space  

In short: The proposed primary school project involves grade reconfigurations, traffic enhancements, facility upgrades, and future expansion plans.
A: The grade 5-8 configuration for a middle-level school is a common approach in many educational systems across the United States. It has been implemented successfully in various schools, including Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, which educated students in grades 5-8 at the middle school level for 30 years. While there are differing opinions and research on the optimal placement of 5th graders, the key is to make the grade span work effectively for students regardless of the specific configuration. This can be achieved by careful planning and implementation, ensuring that the educational needs of all students are met within the chosen grade span.
In short: The grade 5-8 configuration is a widely adopted model that supports effective middle-level education, and can meet the needs of all students within this grade span.
A: Under the new plan, the district will remove all 29 modular classrooms at the campus, which includes 22 at MIW and 7 at GMS. This action is not only financially beneficial, saving the district $600,000 annually in leasing costs, but also practical as it clears space for playgrounds and open areas. Looking ahead, the introduction of a new school designed for grades PK-1, with a capacity to accommodate 550 students, effectively negates the need for additional modular classrooms. This is because the anticipated student enrollment can be comfortably managed within the existing main buildings, eliminating the requirement for temporary classroom space.

In short: All existing modular classrooms will be removed, saving costs and freeing space, with no future need for temporary classrooms due to sufficient capacity in the new school.

A high percentage of feedback received by those who voted against the 80 Gray Road proposal was the total cost. Close consideration was given to ways to lower the cost, but ultimately it was clear that the scope and potential benefit of the one campus proposal would deliver the best value at a lower total cost.

A:  Several in-person events and online sessions are being offered. Refer to the School Building Project page for all events.
A: Check out this dedicated webpage for more information:

Design Questions

A: The design is intended to best support the district’s youngest learners. It is designed to include six “neighborhoods” or learning pods with small group spaces to support students in classroom and small group settings. The center of the school is outfitted with a “learning commons” with books and customized seating. The facility is equipped with 30 regular classroom spaces, a full gymnasium, ample -sized cafeteria, modern safety features throughout, two playgrounds, allied arts spaces (art, music, PE), dedicated spaces for a variety of special services, flex spaces that can be used by the school to enhance learning experiences and adapt to changing enrollments, along with enhanced traffic circulation and parking availability. 
An additional 0.5 acre of land is under option agreement with an abutting property owner, pending voter approval of the entire bond package on June 11. The additional land is necessary to design a school with long-term possibilities for expansion, if necessary. Additionally, this half acre allows for a larger gym and cafeteria than was originally designed in order to meet the community’s need for more after-hours space for sports, recreation, and events.
Among the ways the one campus model keeps long-term district’s costs lower than the previous proposal is by managing operational costs in the most efficient way possible. The proposed new school design includes a satellite kitchen that allows for serving hot meals prepared in the full kitchen in Mabel I. Wilson to our P-1 students. This plan optimizes our current food service staff and existing facilities while allowing for the maximum use of the new school footprint. 

Finance Questions

A: The referendum is asking for $53,492,000 million for the new elementary school and accompanying projects. In addition to the new school, this figure allocates funding for long-term sustainability planning for the entire campus as well as critical security and safety upgrades including:
  • New PK-1 school construction
  • Additional land purchase 0.5 acre
  • Addition of 4 classrooms at MIW for grades 2-4 (new construction)
  • Improvements at MIW: windows, doors, bathrooms, reclaimed land, special rooms (STEM, etc)
  • New Maintenance building construction
  • Traffic circulation, road, and parking upgrades on campus
  • Off-site improvements (turn lanes on Main Street and Tuttle Rd)
  • Synthetic turf field (PFAS-free, alternative infill, recyclable)
A:  Coming Soon.
A: After careful consideration, the School Board has elected to not seek State funding for the new school project through the State’s Major Capital School Construction Program. The ranking of the applicants from the 2024-25 rating cycle will not be announced until the end of 2025 and funding for the selected projects may not be distributed until 2035. In the last rating cycle, the top five applicants received funding. In that cycle, MSAD #51’s application was ranked 60 out of 70 applicants. While our need has increased since then, it is highly unlikely the MSAD #51 application will be selected during this upcoming rating cycle as well and waiting on the results of the ranking would delay the new school project by a number of years. In that time, the cost for the new school project could likely increase, ultimately costing our towns more because we waited to move forward. Informed by these factors, it is more prudent to proceed with the referendum and seek State funding for other major campus projects (which have a better chance of approval/selection). 
In short: Selection of the MSAD #51 new school project for State funding is highly unlikely and waiting on the results of the application could delay construction by at least two years, ultimately costing our towns more. State funding will be actively pursued for other campus projects.
A: The district has secured $1.5 million in State Revolving Renovation funds for MIW and $1 million for GHS, particularly for the improvement of the science wing. About half of these funds will be forgiven, and the remaining amount is subject to a 0% interest rate. Looking forward, MSAD 51 will pursue funding for future projects like the MIW gymnasium. Due to many state-wide need based factors, historically, MSAD 51 has had more success receiving state funding for renovations as opposed to major capital construction. More information about the different types of funding are available HERE.

In short: While the district has obtained some state funds for renovations, securing state funding for the new school project is unlikely in the near future due to past low priority rankings and the current financial climate of state-funded school construction projects.
A: Below is the tax and expenditure history for MSAD #51 over the last 9 fiscal years. These are the total tax effects each year. The school project, if approved, would become part of the overall annual budget’s debt service included in the total expenditure and tax requests each year.
Fiscal Year Expenditure Increase % Cumberland Tax Effect / Increase % North Yarmouth Tax Effect/ Increase %
2023 4.67% 2.13% 3.94%
3.96 1.06 0.91
2021 4.85 2.50 0.75
2020 2.66 0.00 0.00
2019 3.84 4.42 5.79
2018 2.83 3.56 3.90
2017 3.42 1.10 1.10
2016 3.60 4.31 3.10
2015 3.60 4.00 3.80

Future Planning Questions

A: While we cannot predict the future with certainty, multiple enrollment projections by specialists (footnote) provide confidence that the proposed 4-facility district will address current needs and accommodate projected enrollment increases. Building a fourth school enhances flexibility and creates additional space across the district's facilities. Enrollment specialists in reports from 2016, 2019, 2022, and 2023 have consistently referred to MSAD 51 as a 4-facility district for the long term, recognizing the need to accommodate changing student populations.
In short: The proposed 4-facility district is expected to provide a long-term solution for current and future needs.
A: The current plan anticipates that the four proposed facilities will adequately meet student needs for the foreseeable future. However, should enrollment unexpectedly exceed these projections, the plan includes provisions for expanding existing facilities. This approach ensures that the schools can adapt and accommodate any long-term increases in student numbers. The plan outlines specific areas where such expansions can occur, providing a flexible response to potential future enrollment growth. At the new school, there is a built-in 

In short: Should future enrollment surpass projections, the plan includes options for expanding facilities to accommodate the increased number of students.
A: In 2009, an enrollment study anticipated a significant decline in MSAD #51's student numbers. Based on this projection, and following voter approval, the district closed Drowne Road School in 2010 and North Yarmouth Memorial School in 2014. The closure of North Yarmouth Memorial School was also influenced by its urgent need for costly renovations to stay operational. These decisions were aligned with the expected decrease in enrollment and the financial burden of renovating the buildings. However, the projected enrollment decline did not materialize as expected. Updated studies conducted in 2016, 2019, and 2022 showed an increase in enrollment, contrasting with the 2009 projections.

In short: The district closed two schools based on earlier projections of declining enrollment, but subsequent studies have shown an unexpected increase in student numbers, contrasting with those initial predictions.
A: The most recent enrollment study, completed in November of 2023, indicates that our student population is on track to reach the district’s peak levels from the early 2000s, representing an increase of 350-400 students from the current count of 2,150. The studies conducted in 2016, 2019, 2022  and 2023 have demonstrated a reliable track record, accurately forecasting our school population within a marginal error range over the past three years. This consistency in accurate predictions enhances our confidence in the current projections.
In short: Recent enrollment studies have been consistently accurate, boosting confidence in the latest projections. 
A: Responsible school construction benefits the entire community. This new school enables us to uphold our commitment to providing an excellent education. Your tax dollars will be invested in a lasting school rather than temporary portables, which can boost property values, enhance our school system's reputation, and increase your equity, ultimately improving your overall financial well-being.

In short: The new school benefits the community by ensuring a high-quality education, increasing property values, and enhancing financial stability.

Maintenance Building Questions

A: The existing maintenance building is on the grounds of the proposed new school site and needs to be removed. Due to the age and structure of this building, it would not be able to be moved. The district is working with the Cumberland Historical Society to preserve an aspect of the building to honor its history. Additionally, there is equipment in the field house that needs to be consolidated with all facilities equipment and moved to a location on the campus that is more isolated for safety purposes.
A: If the new school passes, the building that currently houses the Facility Department will be demolished. Before becoming the district’s Facilities Department, the building previously housed the cafeteria for the old Greely Junior High School, which was discontinued 20 years ago.  The building code requirements and a location move is not a viable option based on its current structural condition. To honor the history of the building, a memorial of some form would be created and placed in the new school.

In short: To honor the history of the building, a memorial of some form would be created and placed in the new school.

Safety Questions

A: While it's impossible to predict with absolute certainty, we anticipate that the construction project will not significantly impact students, staff, or visitors. The school is strategically located in one quadrant of the campus, across from the high school, which should minimize disruptions. We are proactively working with our traffic engineer, project architects, the Town of Cumberland, and the construction company to mitigate any potential traffic issues. Recognizing that construction can impact the community, we are also collaborating with the Maine Department of Transportation and the project architects to minimize this impact as much as possible. Additionally, the SAD has rights to a ROW that connects to Tuttle Rd, which will help minimize disruption on the campus by using this ROW as a construction access road. 

In short: We expect minimal disruption from the construction, with plans to mitigate any impact on the community. 

Turf Questions

A: The turf field was included as a component of a sustainable one campus model. 
  1. Currently, Hutchins Field can only be used around 170 hours a year and limited to games for our soccer, football, and lacrosse athletes. Turf can be used almost year-round and made available for practices, community use, and expanded to include field hockey athletes. The district is committed to ensuring that the turf field is PFAS-free, alternative infill (not crumb rubber), and recyclable.

  2. Providing a consistent and accessible playing surface for our athletes, visiting teams, and the community. Despite the best efforts and hard work of our facilities and grounds staff who spend countless hours maintaining Hutchins Field, grass fields have long been a challenge in Maine due to winter weather, athletic wear-and-tear, and sheer demand for field usage.

  3. Our student athletes invest so much time into their seasons, their sport, and the community. In comparison with the schools that we compete with, our student athletes are at a significant competitive disadvantage as most schools now have turf fields. Additionally, Greely does not have a home advantage because practices cannot be held on Hutchins Field due to the fragility of field conditions. In some sports (such as field hockey), our student athletes are not even considered by colleges if they do not play on turf.

  4. There is no place on campus to practice for the first several weeks of the spring season. Programs must rent indoor turf off site in Portland. On average, 30% of regular season practices have occurred off campus either at an indoor facility or at a rented turf at a neighboring school. This places a burden on families financially and in the time transporting players to and from off-site practices. Additionally, many of our student athletes are young drivers who are transporting themselves, often late into the evening when off-site facilities are available, creating safety concerns.

  5. Installing a turf field will provide more space for outdoor physical education classes during the school day, while freeing up more opportunities for the community to use fields at Twin Brook, which are often in demand during school athletic seasons.

Greater Portland Schools with Turf: Lewiston, Thornton, Portland, Windham ,Deering, Scarborough, Kennebunk, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, Freeport, Waynflete, NYA, York (in process).
Greater Portland Schools without Turf: Greely, Cheverus, Westbrook, Gray/New Gloucester, So. Portland.