January 8

Casco Bay High School expansion design reviewed

The school board looks at architectural plans that will help the school add students starting this fall.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Portland’s Casco Bay High School will expand its physical space this year, allowing it to increase enrollment in the fall. In recent years, the school has had to hold enrollment lotteries to meet demand.

click image to enlarge

Casco Bay High School juniors work on a multimedia project in 2009. Portland’s Casco Bay High School will expand its physical space this year, allowing it to increase enrollment in the fall.

Staff File Photo by John Patriquin

“This is very exciting,” said Portland School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson, whose daughter is a freshman at Casco Bay.

At a school board workshop Tuesday night, PDT Architects of Portland presented the preliminary design plans to the panel.

Many of the changes involve moving walls and carving out specific space for food service, meeting rooms and various sizes of classrooms on the second and third floors of the building. There is no expansion of the actual building.

PDT Architects is now gathering cost estimates, and its final report is due in February.

The school shares a building with Portland Arts and Technology High School and the school district’s Central Office at 196 Allen Ave. This fall, the Central Office will move to a new building downtown, freeing up space for Casco Bay High School to expand.

The expansion into the Central Office space at PATHS will increase Casco Bay High School’s space from about 23,000 square feet presently to about 35,000 square feet.

“It provides tremendous relief for them,” said Alan Kuniholm, a principal at PDT Architects. Further, the changes will unify the school, which has grown “haphazardly” over the years, he said.

“This is the road map,” Kuniholm said.

The changes will allow Casco Bay to increase its ninth-grade class by up to 30 students, according to Principal Derek Pierce.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to expand our student body, staffing and facilities in a way that better meets community demand and student needs while allowing us to preserve our small, distinctive community,” Pierce said in a statement.

Casco Bay High School has 335 students and plans to add 30 students in each of the next two school years until it reaches a total of 390 to 400 students. For the past four years, the school has held student lotteries for its open spaces. Last year’s pool of 133 students in the lottery was the largest to date.

Portland’s eighth-graders choose which high school they want to attend starting in ninth grade. They must submit commitment letters in January so administrators can plan staffing and budgets.

The district is able to reorganize because of the $3.6 million purchase of a new building last month downtown. The former Goodwill building at 353 Cumberland Ave. will house the Central Office, the Multilingual and Multicultural Center and the West Program.

Started in 2005, Casco Bay High follows an Expeditionary Learning model promoted by Outward Bound that includes an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum and emphasizes real-world learning experiences.

PDT Architects has met with school staff and students to brainstorm ideas for the expansion. This year’s budget includes $200,000 for the planning and design work and beginning the expansion project. The district has requested an additional $255,000 in capital improvement funds next year for additional work, but that money has not yet been approved by the Portland City Council.

Peter Eglinton, the school district’s chief operations officer, reminded the board that the expansion may be done in phases because the district is facing capital improvement projects at most of its schools in addition to the cost of moving the Central Office.

“Reminding ourselves of that will be important,” he said.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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