Option 5A

GORHAM — A consultant Tuesday delivered two options to expand the aging high school that reduce the initial estimated cost of a project.

Daniel Cecil of Harriman Architects and Engineers presented school and municipal officials with Option 5A, costing $75.6 million, and Option 6, $71.9 million. The original proposal made public in March was pegged at $96.8 million, stunning many in the community.

“We’ve dug down to the doorknobs to get the numbers down,” Cecil said.

Gorham municipal and school officials Tuesday hear two options for a Gorham High School expansion/renovation project. Pictured in the foreground are, from left, Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak and Town Councilors Lee Pratt and Paul Smith. Robert Lowell/American Journal

A School Committee discussion of the two options could be the next step.

“We’ll take it to the School Committee with the information we have,” Superintendent Heather Perry said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The overcrowded high school at 41 Morrill Ave. opened in September 1959 and underwent an $11 million renovation in 1994 to handle 750 students. But enrollment this past school year was 868 in the school, which also uses six modular classrooms. Enrollment is projected to soar to 975 in a decade.

The updated options both include a two-story classroom wing enabling the school to house up to 950 students while providing area for future expansion. The plan released in March would have housed 1,100 students.

An expansion-renovation project could go to Gorham voters in a March 2020 referendum, Cecil said, coinciding with the state’s presidential primary election. Councilor Paul Smith said following the meeting that he would favor a November referendum.

Gorham property taxpayers would shoulder the full cost of a high school project without state funds. “We’re over doubling the debt for the town of Gorham,” Smith said at the meeting.

The Town Council would be responsible for sending the project to voters.

Option 5A calls for constructing a two-story classroom wing easterly of the present building and protruding into Robie Park. It also would relocate the present Access Road, used by buses and other school traffic, into part of the park.

Under Option 6, a two-story wing would be built parallel to Morrill Avenue and would not impact the park. The Access Road would stay put.

Both options include bringing the number of classrooms up to 35, adding a new gym and relocating the main office from Morrill Avenue to the opposite end of the building. The main office relocation would address security concerns.

Parking on the 23-acre campus would be increased from about 280 to 442.

Five tennis courts would be located in the southerly end of Robie Park under Option 5A., The courts in Option 6 would be in the park’s northerly section near the present softball field. Improvements to athletic fields in 5A would be paid for through an athletics fundraising program.

The cafeteria in Option 5A would be expanded; Option 6 calls for a new cafeteria.

Both plans eliminate a lecture hall included in the March proposal. While applauding the work in developing the options, Principal Brian Jandreau said he laments the loss of the lecture space.

Traffic flow became a public issue in the first plan, but both new options keep school buses on the Access Road. The new designs were in response to a neighborhood concern about increasing traffic on Ball Park Road if Access Road was eliminated.

The intersection of Access Road and Narragansett Street (Route 202) could get a turn lane. No highway improvement is likely for the intersection of Morrill Avenue and South Street (Route 114).

The two new options were presented to the School Committee’s Building Committee, but Bill Benson was the only one of the seven-member School Committee present. Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak attended the meeting as did Town Councilors Suzanne Phillips, Lee Pratt and Smith. Phillips and Pratt are also members of the Building Committee.

Pratt quizzed Perry about seeking state funds for a project. Perry said asking for state help is highly competitive and a state education official had told her he wouldn’t bother apply. Cecil said there are 60 to 70 proposed projects on the state’s list.

Option 6

 


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