GORHAM – School officials say they expect the town’s new elementary school to be ready for its scheduled opening in September 2011.

The $15. 5 million school, with a geothermal system, technology upgrades and “green features,” will replace White Rock Elementary School and allow a long-awaited reconfiguration of elementary grades among Gorham’s school buildings.

At the site of the school on Route 237, contractors are working in the concrete shell of the school’s cafeteria and gymnasium. Work is also being done on the B and C classroom wings. Work has not started on the administrative offices.

The school will have a geothermal system for heating and cooling, a keyless entry system, and energy conservation devices such as solar panels and light sensors.

Superintendent Ted Sharp said the school will have the same “green features” as Gorham Middle School, which was built in 2004 and was the first public school in northern New England to be entirely heated and cooled with a geothermal geo-exchange system.

“It’s the right thing to do in terms of the environment and it’s very cost-effective,” Sharp said.

The new school will replace the aging White Rock Elementary School and accommodate 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Gorham now has the White Rock and Narragansett elementary schools for kindergarten through second grade. Village Elementary School has grades 3 through 5.

When the new school is complete, the three elementary schools will serve kindergarten through fifth grade. The concept dates back to 1999, based on a recommendation by the Gorham School Facilities Committee.

In April 2003, Gorham’s school board approved the grade reconfiguration for the elementary schools. In August 2005, the town won state approval to build the new school.

Sharp said the new school will give the district the space it needs to put its plan in place.

“This school is incredibly important to us,” he said. “We are realizing the dream that’s been on the books for eight or nine years.”

The project will cost an estimated $15.5 million, with 89.6 percent of that paid by the state. The remaining cost, projected to be less than $3 million, was overwhelmingly approved by residents in a referendum in 2008.

The school will be set on 26 acres at the back of a 70-acre parcel. The school’s land adjoins property that connects to the Presumpscot River and is owned by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust.

Richard Curtis, president of the trust, said it has trails on the property leading to the river. He said the trust could build a trail from the school to its land, to “present an educational opportunity for the students to get into the woods and access the river.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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