Yarmouth High School will get a new entrance, nine new classrooms and the more space for specialty learning under a $12.7 million renovation. Harriman rendering

YARMOUTH — The Planning Board gave final approval to  construction projects at Yarmouth High School and William H. Rowe School.

The high school and Rowe school additions received approval after a site walk and meeting June 26.

Approvals for projects proposed at Frank H. Harrison Middle School and Yarmouth Elementary School are expected when the board meets again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10.

A $6.7 million addition at Rowe School will include four new classrooms. Courtesy Harriman

Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff this week said he hopes bid documents will be ready for all four school projects, which are being designed by Harriman architects of Portland, no later than the end of August.

The plan is to break ground at Rowe in October, the high school in November or December, and the elementary and middle schools in January 2020, with work continuing simultaneously at all four schools.

Yarmouth voters approved borrowing $52 million this past fall to fund additions and improvements at each of the town’s four schools. The most expensive and significant changes will take place at the elementary school, where a two-story, 11-classroom addition will be built.

Along with specialty spaces for art and music and a new gym, the most consequential change will be making room for the fifth grade, which is now at Harrison Middle School.

The middle school project includes three new classrooms and instructional support spaces for math, literacy and English language learner programs. Changes at the high school include creating a new main entrance and adding nine regular classrooms, two science classrooms and a new learning center.

The Rowe project consists of four new classrooms, plus specialized spaces for math, literacy and English language learner instruction.

Dolloff said the plan is to bid the elementary and middle school projects together, while putting together separate packages for Rowe and the high school.

“By separating them out this way, we hope to provide the opportunity for a larger number of bids from various-sized construction firms, which should make the bids more competitively priced,” he said.

With the Maine Department of Transportation canceling projects due to unexpectedly high construction costs and several area municipal projects also going over budget because of the costs of materials and labor, Dolloff said that’s a big concern in Yarmouth, too.

“We are continually concerned about prices,” Dolloff said this week, “and have been spending a lot of time since the November vote refining the plans and gauging the potential costs.”

Even with concerns about cost, he said the School Department has not made any “significant reductions to any of the plans at this point. We remain hopeful that the projected costs will align with the bids we receive.”

Having four schools under construction at once will be a logistical challenge for school leaders, both at the central office and on the building level, Dolloff said. But he said everyone is ready to take on the additional work that will be involved. The goal, he said, is to hire an owner’s representative to oversee the day-to-day progress on each job.

And, he said, “we’ll work closely with our architects and our building principals to be as thoughtful as possible in handling the classroom moves and other logistics associated with these projects.” For instance, several schools will need to use portable classrooms and there will be some disruption of walking routes.

Dolloff said what he’s most excited about is that each project has its own unique aspects specifically designed to improve the educational programming that each school can offer.

He also said that while the town is taking on significant debt to tackle all four schools at once, “in the end, these will be facilities that focus on functionality.”

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