Timing means a lot in politics, and backers of the South Portland high school bond probably wish their $41.5 million borrowing request was coming up at a time when the economy wasn’t so fragile.

But a number of factors dictate that the question be decided now, and because of the age and condition of the building, low interest rates and construction costs and, most importantly, the impact on a whole generation of high school students, South Portland voters should approve this project.

South Portland High School has been built in stages over nearly 60 years, and it has not aged well. There is extensive water damage, its mechanical and electrical systems are substandard and its heating and ventilation systems are inadequate. It does not meet modern disability access standards and its sprawling floor plan, with more than 20 entrances, makes it nearly impossible to keep secure.

Because of the poor state of the building, the city has been put on notice that the school could lose its accreditation.

What has been proposed is an extensive renovation and modernization of part of the existing building and significant new construction that will consolidate the school’s functions, making it more efficient to operate and more secure.

The project has been criticized as too expensive for the city during this tough economic period. While there are details of the plan that could be quibbled over, the reality is that the most essential parts of the project are the most expensive and their costs are driven by the condition of the building and the constraints of its site.

Delaying the project now could end up making it more expensive. Current interest rates and construction costs are some of the lowest in recent memory and the next year or two would be an advantageous time to be sending a project out to bid.

But the most important timing issue is what delay means to current and future high school students. A high school career is only four years, and even if this plan is approved by the voters in November, it would take nearly that long to complete the project. Going back to the drawing board would mean another generation of South Portland High School students would have to complete their education in a substandard building, which would likely factor into the decisions of prospective home buyers who were considering the community.

The timing of this referendum might not seem ideal, but the time to get this project under way is now. South Portland voters should say “yes” to the high school bond question.