Construction of a new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham is more than halfway complete. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

TOPSHAM — The new Mt. Ararat High School is 51 percent complete, and on still target to open in fall 2020.

The building’s major pieces of electrical and mechanical equipment are starting to be interconnected and tested, School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Shawn Chabot said July 18. Parking lots, lighting, drainage and new utilities are under construction, and the approximately 153,000-square-foot structure is to be fully enclosed and functional in a few months so that interior work can proceed this winter.

Brickwork around the exterior has begun, covering over the green sub-siding layer that has served as a drywall for all types of weather. Framing of classrooms has also started, Chabot said, and the project remains on budget and schedule.

“At some point, over the course of June through August of next summer, we will be moving into that new building,” although a precise date of when that process will begin has yet to be determined, he said.

SAD 75 voters in March 2017 overwhelmingly approved the base project at a cost not to exceed $60 million, including $6.2 million for locally funded items not covered by the state. Voters also backed a $649,000 synthetic turf athletic field, which will be built where the current Mt. Ararat High School stands after that 46-year-old building is demolished.

Because the new school is being built on the existing school’s athletic field on Eagles Way, construction of new baseball and practice fields began first. But harsher-than-anticipated conditions last winter, known as “winter kill,” have stymied grass growth, pushing the baseball field’s opening from this spring to 2021, Chabot said.

“This winter was particularly hard; that’s what the studies have shown,” he explained. “And the field did not survive like we wanted it to.”

A remediation plan is being developed, Chabot said. “Once they fix it, it needs a year to sit and grow roots,” hence the delay to 2021, he added.

Chabot, who started as the SAD 75 superintendent July 1, said he has already attended two construction meetings. The former assistant superintendent for Lewiston Public Schools lauded staff, including former interim Superintendent Bob Lucy, with for bringing him up to speed on a variety of district matters.

Taking the reins of SAD 75 with a major construction project underway is “both very exciting and a little overwhelming, to be honest,” Chabot said.

But from the conversations he has had with the people involved with the project, he said, “everybody has the right attitude (about what) we need to do to do it the right way, so we have a long-lasting product for our students and the taxpayers.”

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