Kate Furbish School is on track to open in 2020 and will serve 660 students from pre-K through second grade. PDT Architects

BRUNSWICK — Kate Furbish School is at the halfway mark for construction and is on track for a projected opening in 2020.

The current state of the entrance of Kate Furbish School in Brunswick. Courtesy Sarah Singer

The $20.3 million project, according to School Board member Sarah Singer, chairwoman of the Building Committee, is on track to open next fall. The 90,000-square-foot school will serve 660 pre-kindergarten through second grade students.

“We have been very fortunate that our architect and contractor have been so outstanding,” Singer said in an Aug. 28 email.

The new school sits on the property that once contained Jordan Acres Elementary School, which was demolished in December 2018 after closing in 2011 due to structural problems. The school will be named after Kate Furbish, a Victorian-era resident known for her paintings and drawings of Maine flora.

The school’s new pre-K pilot program will start on Sept. 3 at Coffin School and will move to the new school when it opens. The 30 students in the program this year will be split between two full-day sessions each week. The first group will attend classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and the second on Tuesdays and Thursdays; each day will run from 8:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students that need additional services, such as language skills or occupational therapy, will come in on Fridays.

“Pre-K is one of the best investments a school district can make in its students,” Singer said. “The benefits of early childhood education have been proven in a multitude of ways. It also promotes and creates equity by giving all children – regardless of means – the opportunity to access crucial early programming.”

The pre-K program is expected to cost around $260,000 for the first year, according to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski, and will cover salaries for a teacher and an educational technician, classroom supplies and furniture.

Start-up funding was appropriated in the Maine State Legislature’s budget for public school districts. According to Perzanoski, the state will reimburse the district during the same fiscal year, which means funding for the program could be grandfathered next year when the new school is set to open.

So far there have been no setbacks in the construction schedule for Kate Furbish School, which is being built by CHA Architecture. Additionally, there will be a 1,000-square-foot “discovery classroom” in a separate building for students to be able to do hands-on science and art presentations. The classroom was a $450,000 gift from Bowdoin College, which donated the funding in May.

“We’re finalizing the design for the exploratory classroom that Bowdoin is donating,” Singer said, adding it needs building committee approval.

The classroom will include sinks, tables and storage spaces for students and school faculty to use for visual art, nature experiences and science programs. Discovery classrooms have already seen success in town at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, which houses two classrooms.

Money had been allocated toward a discovery classroom in the original budget for Kate Furbish School, but the district removed the classroom from the plans as a cost-saving measure, Singer said.

“This building will provide the opportunity for the children at Kate Furbish elementary to experience nature-based learning, science, gross-motor movement and music in a space designed specifically for those activities,” Singer previously told The Times Record.

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