SCARBOROUGH – Voters may decide next year on another plan to replace the Wentworth Intermediate School.

Scarborough’s Wentworth Building Committee has reached a consensus that a new school should be built, rather than a renovation of the current school, which consists of the original 1963 building and a number of additions.

The committee’s timeline calls for voters to decide on a borrowing proposal in November, and for the new school to open in the fall of 2014.

The panel began meeting last month. It does not yet have a final concept plan or dollar figure for the project. It wants the new school to have two stories, because that layout would offer more energy- and mechanical-efficiency, require less time for children to move around the school, and fit better on a small lot, said Paul Koziell, chairman of the building committee.

a 3-2 ratio, voters rejected a $38.3 million plan in 2006 to replace the school, which serves about 775 students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. That plan relied entirely on local funding, as would the latest proposal.

The committee assumed that a renovation would cost about 10 to 12 percent less than a new building, but would require a larger contingency fund and take longer to complete, Koziell said.

Wentworth’s problems include aging heating and electrical systems, an inadequate stormwater removal system and a roof that is nearing the end of its life. The school lacks a fire suppression system, is not fully handicapped accessible and does not meet current codes.

Since 2006, $1.2 million has been spent to keep Wentworth operational, said Principal Anne-Mayre Dexter.

Wentworth, a former junior high school that was later shared with middle grades, is largely made of cinderblocks and laid out in a roughly rectangular shape. One wing, composed of portable classrooms, has lower ceilings and lacks plumbing.

Some spaces are awkward, because they have been adapted for purposes for which they weren’t intended.

For example, guidance offices are small and windowless, and a handicapped-accessible bathroom is tucked behind a shower curtain in a storage area.

“We have retrofitted this building over and over again,” Dexter said.

A lesson from 2006 was that supporters of the school project must step up their public outreach efforts, Koziell said.

“We’re not assuming anything. We’re not being complacent,” said Koziell, a Wentworth parent and a lawyer with Freeport-based CPM Constructors.

Town Councilor Carol Rancourt noted that the Wentworth project and a separate ballot question for middle school renovations failed in 2006 — as did other proposals after the 2002 approval of a $26.8 million high school renovation.

“All right in a row like dominos,” she said. “I think people were concerned about what was going on, not having too much debt.”

Dexter said the previous plan for Wentworth seemed large in terms of square footage per student, and the project’s backers didn’t do a good job explaining that areas — such as a kitchen to be shared with the primary schools and district testing services — would not be used solely by Wentworth. 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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