GORHAM — Voters next month will choose two School Committee members in a three-way race. Both available seats are for three-year terms.

Incumbent Stewart McCallister faces political newcomer James Brockman and former Town Council Chairman Philip T. Gagnon Jr. Longtime committee member Kyle Currier is not seeking re-election.

 

The successful candidates will be faced with the issue of overcrowding at Gorham High School. A consultant in August presented school officials with two options for a renovation-expansion, one  One option was pegged at $75.6 million and the other, $71.9 million. If a project is approved in a future referendum, town property taxpayers would carry the full load of debt. The Gorham High School Building Committee is expected to recommend a project to the School Committee at 6 p.m. on  Oct. 22.

The three School Committee candidates have voiced their recommendations for courses of action. Brockman sees an expansion version as the answer,  Gagnon is calling for a review of all options and McCallister favors an option currently on the table.

“Unless we build a new school or renovate the existing school, we will have to buy modular classrooms, expect high maintenance costs, and eventually face a more expensive building project,” Brockman said. “I will work to find a solution that meets the needs of current and future students, while respecting the limits of our community’s finances. From what I have seen, some version of the high school expansion seems the best choice.”

Gagnon pointed out the community will continue to grow, and he advocates strategic planning to expand schools and curriculum needs “to positively impact” children while understanding the long-term impact on taxpayers. “I favored renovations to the high school, due to its crowding, almost 10 years ago. Gorham now needs to review all options for the high school and elementary school crowding, which includes future growth, prior to going to referendum,” Gagnon said.

McCallister said he favors, at this point, moving forward with the renovation plans. “We have kicked this can too far down the road and are now making a decision when the construction market is at a high,” he said. “The latest projections have us at around $71 million. As the project moves forward, the School Committee should continue to look for ways to drive that cost down while the town looks for ways to offset the expense to taxpayers.”

In other issues, Brockman said he would enhance public information and awareness. “I would love to form a Communication Committee to work to help increase community engagement and cooperation with the School Committee,” he said.

Gagnon advocates a collaboration of elected boards to deal with matters.”As Gorham faces a space issue for services provided to its citizens, due to continued growth, it is time for the Town Council and School Board to jointly work towards a strategic capital plan to address these needs,”he said.

McCallister said alternative forms of education are necessary to prepare students for “a wide array of options” after graduating. He also favors increased training and awareness of bullying and mental health issues. He said he wants to ensure “everyone feels welcome and safe in our schools.”

The election is Nov. 5. On Oct. 24, Baxter Memorial Library, 71 South St., is hosting a public meet and greet for local candidates from 5:30-7 p.m.

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