BIDDEFORD — City officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a project to renovate and expand Biddeford High School, although the construction isn’t expected to start for about a month.

Site work and other preparation will consume a couple of weeks after the groundbreaking, said Principal Britton Wolfe, with much of the construction likely to start in mid- or late-July.

Wolfe said school officials are working on plans to accommodate the two-year, $34 million project and minimize disruptions when students return for the new school year in a little more than two months.

“It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “It’s very involved. There’s a lot of logistics.”

Most immediately, Wolfe said, students, teachers and staff members will have to deal with the loss of parking space. Most of the on-street parking space around the school will be occupied by construction equipment and supplies, as will part of the parking lots next to the building. School officials are still looking at ways to provide more parking, he said.

The school will bring in portable classrooms for teachers whose rooms will be among the first to be renovated, he said.

About 10 teachers will have to move out of the building for the project’s first three phases, which will begin next month and run through April. Along the way, Wolfe said, hallways may be closed and students will have to get used to finding new routes from class to class.

“Things are going to be different and we’re all going to have to put up with inconveniences,” he said. “There will be noise and it will take longer to get some places.”

Wolfe said students will start to see improvements by next spring, when some of the renovated classrooms are expected to open.

The project involves renovating most of the existing school. Problems to be addressed include replacing large single-pane windows that allow heat to escape, outdated science facilities, inadequate wiring, a lack of storage space and a layout that violates handicapped-accessibility laws.

The project also includes an addition that will house new administrative and guidance offices and a media center.

Wolfe said the it is expected to be done by August 2012.

The vote in November approving the bond to pay for the work was a vote of support for the city’s schools, said Superintendent Sarah-Jane Poli.

Biddeford built a new middle school in 2005, but the state paid for the $22 million building. The high school work is entirely dependent on local taxes, and will add about $180 a year to the tax bill on a $200,000 home.

But people she talks to aren’t focusing on the cost, Poli said. “People in the community just want to know when it’s going to get started.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]