SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents who participated in a straw poll Thursday evening overwhelmingly approved the concept design for a new $50 million middle school.

The vote taken in the South Portland High School auditorium was 95 to 2 in favor of a design developed by a building committee and WBRC Architects-Engineers.

The building would replace the city’s two aging middle schools, both of which house grades 6 through 8, and be built on the site of the Memorial Middle School on Wescott Road. The project would be funded by the state and also would replace Mahoney Middle School on Ocean Street.

Both Mahoney and Memorial have significant structural, health, safety and handicapped-access deficiencies, along with asbestos throughout and inadequate heating, ventilation, plumbing, electrical and communication systems.

The new school would house grades 5 through 8, with two lower grades and two upper grades in separate areas, addressing some parents’ concerns about fifth-graders’ social and academic readiness for middle school.

Building one larger middle school also would address deficiencies throughout the district as required by the state and free up space in the city’s five elementary schools for pre-kindergarten classes, special education programs and English-language learners.

One year ago, residents overwhelmingly approved the location of the new school, voting 151 to 49 in a similar straw poll. Thursday’s gathering included a brief presentation about the project and a question-and-answer period.

The straw poll is necessary to qualify for state funding. A citywide referendum on the project will be held in November. Project details are posted on the school district’s website.

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