SOUTH PORTLAND — Gaby Ferrell, 14, is a member of a building subcommittee for the planned renovation and expansion of South Portland High School.
The eighth-grader is excited about the job of selecting flooring and other design features for the $47 million project, despite the fact that by the time of the ribbon-cutting for the new school, it will be the summer of 2015 and she will be celebrating her graduation.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to see some of it finished before then,” Ferrell said. “Really, I’m just happy for the younger kids. This building is falling apart everywhere.”
Ferrell was among a few hundred students, parents, teachers, school officials and residents at an open house in the high school cafeteria Tuesday night.
For the first time, the public was invited to see three-dimensional drawings of the project. People also got a chance to talk about the project with members of the building committee, who are preparing the final plans before the project goes out for bids this fall.
Pam Koonz Canarie, the mother of a high school junior and two recent graduates, said she is pleased that the community got behind the project. “I think it’s great we invested in this.”
While she supported the $41.5 million bond at the polls in November, Canarie has kept an eye on municipal bond interest rates, and is concerned about how much the project will ultimately cost taxpayers. Canarie said she doesn’t want the cost of the physical plant to force the city to cut back on teachers.
“The staff have been tremendous,” she said. “My boys have had amazing opportunities after school because of their great education at South Portland.”
The high school on Highland Avenue was built in 1952. A gym was added in 1958, an annex in 1962, and a cafeteria and auditorium in 1997. The renovated school will have a capacity of 1,100 students, about 200 more than the current enrollment. The project will be funded entirely by South Portland taxpayers.
English teacher Jessica Kaplan and math teacher Drew McNeely said the young people of the city deserve a modern, energy-efficient space, free from leaky roofs, cold classrooms and congested hallways.
“It’s going to be phenomenal,” said Kaplan, who has taught there for 11 years and serves on the building committee.
“The flow, the ability to get around the building, that’s going to make a huge difference,” McNeely said. He likes the plan for teams of teachers to be clustered, with “breakout rooms” for group work.
The building committee is collecting memorabilia for a display in the redesigned school. Members are looking for old photos, souvenirs, news clippings or uniforms, which will be cataloged and stored.
On Tuesday, City Councilor Alan Livingston dropped off a 10-inch patch in the shape of the Red Riots sports mascot, from the 1980 baseball team.
Nancy Crowell submitted a copy of the speech given by William Crowell at the high school graduation ceremony in 1933.
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]om