SCARBOROUGH – Among the questions the Wentworth Intermediate School Building Committee will have to resolve is how a new school might accommodate some town programs and community groups that the existing school currently serves.

Wentworth is a venue for a number of activities, including basketball programs, a unicycling group, high school athletes who use a long hallway for indoor track practice and a square dance club that holds dances in the cafeteria.

Construction of a new school also would result in the loss of the Bessworth building behind Wentworth, which houses town preschool and child-care programs.

Preliminary discussions are under way with users of the school and Bessworth. A number of the building panel’s subcommittees will be working out those issues, which likely will be resolved by April, according to Christopher Brownsey, chairman of the Board of Education and a member of the building committee.

The building committee and school board want to build a new school near the existing school, although the precise location has not been determined. It would replace an existing school that relies on portable classrooms and has many maintenance problems, from an aging roof to air quality issues.

The challenge will be finding a balance between providing community space and reining in project costs. School officials want to put a borrowing proposal on the ballot in November — five years after voters rejected a $38.3 million plan for a new school by a 3-2 margin.

“We’re trying to include as much as we can in the building. At the same time, we have to limit how big it is,” Brownsey said.

There’s no price target, but the aim is to come up with a smaller building proposal this time. In 2006, the plan included a large gym and classrooms that exceeded state size recommendations. That opened the proposal to criticism, Brownsey said.

Wentworth has one gym and a cafeteria that can also serve as a gym. Brownsey said the student population that Wentworth serves — third-, fourth- and fifth-graders — would normally only have one space that size. He said it’s likely that a new school would include one gym space, perhaps with additional storage space to accommodate other programs. He said classroom size will not exceed state recommendations.

The new school’s gym would have to be larger than its current one if it is to meet community recreational needs, said Bruce Gullifer, the town’s community services director. It could work if a screen could be put down the center and it accommodated two basketball courts, he said.

Less clear is how Gullifer’s department would deal with the loss of the Bessworth building, which was built out of portable classrooms. From 100 to 150 children a day take part in the preschool and day-care programs run at the building.

“There are a lot of things to be determined yet,” Gullifer said.

Scarborough doesn’t have the same options as some towns that have community centers, churches with gyms or other organizations with spaces for the public, noted Jacquelyn Perry, a school board member who heads the building committee’s subcommittee on athletics and activities.

“Scarborough is one of those communities where all the activities take place at the school,” she said.

Dottie Hews knows that firsthand. Her square dancing club, Mix ‘n Mingle, holds weekly classes at Eight Corners Primary School and monthly dances at Wentworth. The club has looked at other places for dances, but none met its rather simple needs: a large enough space to accommodate the 80 or so people who attend, access to water to make coffee, some tables and chairs.

Hews, who serves as liaison with the facilities the club uses, imagines that the new school’s gym or cafeteria would work fine for them.

“We’re thinking of staying with them if they’ll have us,” she said.

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

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