February 4, 2013

Gorham High eyes at least $11 million in renovations

Supporters say the school needs more space to relieve crowding, as well as a layout that improves school security.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A major plan to upgrade Gorham High School may soon move from concept to concrete.

The Gorham Town Council will decide Tuesday whether to loan the school department $75,000 to design a renovation and expansion of the school.

School Committee Chairwoman Kyle Currier estimated the cost at $11 million to $15 million and hopes to put the borrowing question on the November ballot.

The school was built in the 1960s and had its last major renovation in 1992, said Superintendent Ted Sharp.

Supporters say the school needs more space and a layout that improves security.

The 134,000-square-foot building is meant to hold 700 students, Sharp said. Enrollment is now 865 and is expected to stay at about that level.

There is not enough disrepair to qualify for state funding, so local taxpayers would foot the entire bill. Residents also will be asked in June to approve a $6.3 million renovation of the former Little Falls school into a new public safety headquarters.

Town Council Chairman Philip Gagnon voted against moving the police and fire departments from Main Street to Little Falls, but is on the high school's building committee and said Monday he supports that project.

Part of the renovation plan would move administrative offices from the front of the building to the back, closer to the parking lot where most students enter. Gagnon said that would allow staff to see who is entering the building -- a more urgent concern since the Newtown, Conn., shootings in December.

Other renovations would include more space for classrooms, social workers, nurses, locker rooms, parking and the cafeteria.

School facilities director Norm Justice said the school would expand by about 21,000 square feet, or 16 percent.

A report from an exploratory committee last fall called for a three-phase plan, starting with the cafeteria, then classroom spaces and finally administration and guidance offices, said Currier.

The $75,000 borrowed from the town would pay PDT Architects of Portland and engineering firm DeLuca-Hoffman Associates of South Portland for the project's design, which should be done by late April, Sharp said.

If voters approve in November, he said, the project could be finished by fall 2015.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

lbridgers@pressherald.com

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