The Regional School Unit 14 Facilities Committee, after a year’s delay, has resumed discussions about replacing the aging Windham Middle School.

After recommending that the school district construct a new Windham-based middle school last year, the school board’s facilities committee indefinitely postponed the talks last August when a withdrawal campaign emerged in Raymond, led by opponents of the proposed new middle school.

The RSU 14 board subsequently shifted its focus to amending the district’s cost-sharing formula. In March, voters approved a new cost-sharing formula that increased taxes for Windham residents, reduced Raymond’s burden, and eliminated the possibility of Raymond financing the construction of a new middle school exclusively for Windham students. Then, in June, Raymond residents voted to prematurely end the withdrawal process from Regional School Unit 14 that they had initiated in November 2014.

Earlier this month, the seven-person facilities committee formally resumed the discussions surrounding the middle school, according to Marge Govoni, the school board’s chairwoman and a member of the subcommittee.

“It really is in the early planning stages,” Govoni said. “We really had to get a resolution, which we now have, on the cost-sharing and the withdrawal.”

According to Govoni, a new middle school could cost upward of $38 million. Furthermore, district officials do not expect the state to contribute any money toward a potential construction effort, since the state ranks the middle school low on its list of priority reconstruction projects, she said. School officials have been told by the state that it could be more than a decade before the middle school would qualify for state aid. Local taxpayers, therefore, would fund the project solely. Any project would first need voter approval.

Under the old cost-sharing formula, Raymond would have funded nearly 45 percent of the costs for a new middle school, even if no Raymond students attended it, while Windham would have funded about 55 percent, according to Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis. Under the new formula, Windham taxpayers would pick up the entire tab for a new Windham Middle School geared exclusively toward Windham students. That has led members of the subcommittee to look at alternatives, according to Govoni.

“It was made quite evident that Raymond did not want to look at consolidating both our students into one school,” Govoni said. “We had to go back and look at a middle school that would really contain Windham students.”

In particular, RSU 14 officials are now considering renovations to Windham Middle School and adding a new wing to the existing building – an option that was not considered last year. Under the new cost-sharing formula, Raymond and Windham would split the cost of renovations, with Raymond funding 36 percent and Windham 64 percent.

“The new portion of the building would be borne by Windham only,” Govoni said. “And the part that was renovated would fall under the cost-sharing formula because it’s not a new building.”

According to an executive facilities planning summary composed by Davis, the Windham Middle School, which is more than 30 years old, has “small,” 635-square-foot classrooms, and is “not a particularly well-built building, with poor energy and engineering features.”

Last year, the subcommittee considered three core options for replacing the Windham Middle School:

• Option 1 would renovate the Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond and build a new middle school exclusively for Windham students on the Windham campus.

• Option 2 would build a new consolidated middle school for Windham and Raymond students on the Windham campus.

• Option 3 includes a consolidated middle school on the Windham campus, as well as a renovation and expansion of Raymond Elementary School.

There are no figures available yet on the cost of renovating Windham Middle School and adding a new wing, Govoni said.

According to Govoni, if voters approve funding for new construction, the project will likely not be finished until 2020, at the earliest. She said the sub-committee hopes to get the proposal to a vote by 2017.

“We would like to be able to get it to the voters in the next couple of years,” she said.

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