Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Students will be eating lunch on the floor of the lobby at Gorham High School for the foreseeable future.
The Gorham School Committee has decided to postpone a townwide referendum on renovating and expanding the high school until the fall of 2015 – two years later than school officials originally planned.
Earlier this month, the building committee for the project presented the school board with its recommendation for a $14.7 million project with added classroom and cafeteria space, new science labs, more parking, and upgrades to the building’s roof, boilers and electrical system.
The committee also recommended asking voters for $2.1 million for a new turf field at the high school.
The two questions would be posed in the same referendum, but the renovation would have to pass for the turf field to be built, said Jim Hager, chairman of the building committee.
When the Town Council loaned the School Committee $75,000 a year ago to design the project, the target date for a referendum was November 2013.
The vote was later pushed back a year to allow more time to pass after a referendum scheduled for June 2013 on a $6.3 million public safety headquarters. Voters rejected the public safety proposal, and now the town is considering asking voters about that project again this November.
With the prospect of that referendum this fall, the School Committee decided last week to push the high school renovation vote back another year, said Superintendent Ted Sharp.
“The public safety building is at the forefront of the Town Council’s business,” Hager said. “We certainly want to have the Town Council’s support and not overwhelm the members of the community and give them time to think and read and understand what we’re trying to do here.”
In the meantime, four portable classrooms are in use, the high school lobby is taking on overflow from the cafeteria, and event parking is a problem, said Principal Chris Record. There are 14 spots in the parking lot that aren’t assigned to high school seniors and staff members, he said.
The project would add about 30,000 square feet to the 134,000-square-foot high school, which was built in the 1960s and last renovated in the 1990s.
The building is designed to serve 700 students – about 150 less than its current enrollment.
With the renovation, Hager said, the building’s capacity would grow to 950 students. That’s expected to meet the district’s needs for the next 20 years.
Hager said the project would not qualify for state funding. Although he said he’s confident that $14.7 million would cover the cost of the renovation a year from now, that number could change in two years. He said he would expect construction to take about a year.
Hager said the school board will have to review the building committee’s recommendation and make any changes it sees fit.
But the board’s decision last week set a new timetable for that review, said Sharp.
“We will now move forward with the project to finalize what it will look like, but at a more relaxed pace,” he said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: