May 22 the voters in Westbrook have an opportunity to say yes to a new Westbrook Middle School. For years, the students and staff have done the best possible job to learn in a less-than-perfect educational environment.

I never attended the current school as a student, but my children did. I have seen first-hand the challenges of trying to conduct a class when your class is divided between four other classrooms by file cabinets. More than 60 percent of our students attending the Wescott Junior High School are in portable classrooms. Anyone who drives into that area knows the traffic and safety concerns.

For months, and even years. A group of dedicated city leaders, school officials, teachers, parents and more than 30 members of the building committee have worked tirelessly to explore all the necessary options to improve this situation. The building committee and the Department of Education are in agreement – now is the time to construct a new school on Stroudwater Street. We are very fortunate to have the state of Maine supporting us in the construction of a new school. They have determined that Westbrook’s Middle School is a high priority! There is no option of renovating the existing site for school use, but there is a committee run by chairmen Jim Violette and Al Juniewicz investigating the best possible re-use for that building.

I am very pleased that the committee has forwarded a two part referendum for the Westbrook voters to affirm their support for this new school and an auditorium. The first question is for the school construction in general, and the second question is to support the addition of a 1,000 seat auditorium at a cost of slightly more than $4 million in local support. The cost of building such an auditorium at a later time would be significantly more expensive. The state will be providing Westbrook with approximately $26 million to build this new middle school. The local cost of the school construction will be approximately $3.5 million.

Ward meetings have begun so that we can share information and answer any questions that the citizens may have on the project. I hope that you will find time to attend one of the ward meetings, or call your School Committee or City Council representative with any questions you might have. Together, we can ensure the young students of Westbrook attend a new, safe, secure, state-of-the-art middle school! Please vote “yes” on May 22.

Colleen Hilton

Westbrook School Committee chairwoman

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