TOPSHAM — The steel frame of the new Mt. Ararat High School is nearly complete and installation of siding will soon begin on the approximately 153,000-square-foot structure.

The project is about 24 percent complete, Chris Shaw, School Administrative District 75 facilities director, said in an interview at the site Tuesday along with Building Committee Chairman John Hodge and SAD 75 Interim Superintendent Bob Lucy.

Construction reached the 15 percent point last November, and winter has slowed progress, but improved weather should speed things along as interior materials arrive, and more tradespeople can work, Shaw said.

“Weather’s been a challenge, but it hasn’t stopped the work,” other than storm days, he added.

The new school is still expected to open in fall 2020.

The construction subcommittee that includes the three men has been meeting twice a month, “and for all intents and purposes, the construction is going very well,” Hodge said. “The Building Committee feels we’re really ahead of schedule in terms of where we are with the budget.”

SAD 75 voters in March 2017 overwhelmingly approved the base project at an amount not to exceed $60 million, which includes $6.2 million for locally funded items that the state will not cover. They also backed a $649,000 synthetic turf athletic field, which will be built where the old school stands after the building is demolished.

The foundation is complete, and the steel framing – the building’s skeleton – is about 80 percent done. Sub-siding, a layer beneath the exterior walls that Shaw described as “an all-weather drywall,” is being installed. 

“We’re working from the inside out, so we’re getting to skin, which will be the brick eventually,” Hodge noted.

Brick will run along the bottom, with metal siding on the second story of the roughly Y-shaped building, which is broken up into five project sections.

Sections D and E, the two arms of the building farther back from the road, have been tackled first. They will contain the academic wings and classrooms, as well as visual art space.

Roofing is 85 percent complete on Section E, and installation on the D section has begun.

Section C is the lobby, administration, the library/learning commons, dining commons, and kitchen, Shaw said. Section B is the Forum performing arts area, and will also include band, chorus and adult education. Section A will be the athletics, maintenance and receiving areas.

The final major delivery of steel is due next week; the building will contain nearly 1,000 tons of structural steel.

PDT Architects designed the school, and Arthur C. Dudley of Standish is the project’s primary contractor.

The district is commissioning three original works of art to be housed within the building. They include an archway over the school’s commons area, as well as an eagle – a nod to the school’s mascot – along the “Main Street” corridor of the building, Hodge said.

Nostalgic items from the existing 1973 school, such as an eagle sculpture that stands in the lobby, will be displayed. Eagles painted on the floor and a wall of the gym, which cannot be moved, will be documented.

Committees dedicated to landscaping, and equipment and furniture procurement will soon begin meeting, Hodge said.

Lucy, who was starting his third week on the job, said he had encountered “a wonderful spirit of cooperation” in the SAD 75 community, as well as “generous support … for this project” from all four member towns.

There will be a significant increase on site of contractors, and once the building is enclosed enough to keep out the elements, concrete for the subfloors and second floor will be poured. Masons will begin brickwork in the hallways and exterior, Shaw said.

While the site has been a hub of activity in recent months, it will seem quieter once the walls are up, Hodge noted.

“All the work’s going to be done inside,” he explained. “But it’s going to be extremely busy, and a lot of crewmen working; you just won’t see it as much as you’re seeing it now.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Chris Shaw, facilities director for School Administrative District 75, left, Building Committee Chairman John Hodge, and Interim Superintendent of Schools Bob Lucy outside the new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, which is nearly 25 percent complete.

Sub-siding has been installed along parts of the future Topsham school.