BATH — Opening of the new Morse High School has been postponed four months to December 2020.

The delay has nothing to do with Crooker Construction being behind schedule at the Wing Farm Business Park, Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said in an interview March 14.

On the contrary, the three general contractors that bid on the project had concerns in recent months about workforce availability, particularly in the areas of drywall and steel, he said.

“(It’s) about being able to find the subcontractors in certain areas to get the job done in time,” Manuel said. “They were requesting more time, and the (Maine) Department of Education and the district felt like that was the most appropriate thing to do, to get competitive bids.”

The delay means Morse students could begin the 2020-2021 school year in the existing, nearly century-old school, and then move to the new building after Christmas break.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Manuel said, “but at the same time, a project of this size, we certainly understand you can have hiccups along the way.”

Harvey Construction of Bedford, New Hampshire, presented the winning low bid of $47 million for the construction portion of the project. With the subcontracted mechanical work coming in about $3 million over budget projections, that piece of the project has gone back out for additional bids.

“Harvey’s got the project,” Manuel noted. “But we’ve put the mechanical part back out to reassess that situation.”

Regardless of where the new bids come in later this month, RSU 1 and the DOE will refine the budget soon afterward, the superintendent said.

Harvey could begin pouring concrete at the site in early April and Crooker could wrap up site work this fall.

The three-story building will be nearly 186,000 square feet, a bit larger than the current school and the separate Bath Regional Career and Technical Center combined. The new school will be built for a population of 650, have two gyms and two athletic fields, and an enhanced theater. Access will be from a reconfigured Anchor Road.

The words “Morse” and “BRCTC” will be placed in large letters on sides along the wall of the main entrance, acknowledging the union of the high school and Bath Regional Career and Technical Center under one roof. The arched window over the three entry doors is a nod to the current high school.

The top corners will show the dates 1904 and 2020 – the first being the construction date of the original school, named for businessman Charles Morse and destroyed by fire in the late 1920s; the existing school at 826 High St. was built as a result. The second date reflects the third school named after Morse.

The DOE approved the site and school design last year.

RSU 1 voters last November approved a construction bond by a 3-1 margin. The state is funding $67.4 million of the $75.3 million cost; $7.2 million is to be paid locally through borrowing, with $700,000 earmarked from fundraising.

The district has met that goal, and the fundraising committee will meet soon to discuss a new benchmark to meet, Manuel said.

“We have been very fortunate,” he added, “and are very grateful for the support we have received so far.”

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

Ledge work continued March 14 at the site of the new Morse High School in Bath. Expected completion has been postponed from August 2020 to that December.

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