Regional School Unit 1 is looking into replacing Bath’s two longtime elementary schools: Dike Newell, at left, and Fisher Mitchell. Courtesy Vision Government Solutions

BATH — Regional School Unit 1 is in the early stages of determining whether Bath’s two elementary schools should be replaced by one or two new structures.

“The Facilities Committee has started that conversation,” Superintendent Patrick Manuel said in an interview Oct. 11.

When the state opened up its most recent capital school construction funding list about a year ago, RSU 1 applied on behalf of the Dike Newell school, which houses pre-kindergarten to grade 2, and Fisher Mitchell, home to grades 3-5. Following visits by the state Department of Education, the latter ranked in the 20s, and Dike Newell was around the 50th mark, which prompted discussions about “how far out are we looking before we might get some state support,” Manuel said. “But we don’t know the answer to that.”

The Facilities Committee, due to meet next on Tuesday, Oct. 22, will likely hold yet-to-be-scheduled public meetings to hear input on which direction is best. Whether one school would be built to replace the two, or two individual schools, is up for consideration. The entire RSU 1 Board of Directors has yet to discuss the matter.

“There is a need for a new school to serve the elementary population in Bath,” Manuel said, pointing out both schools are aging and running out of space. “The question deserves to be discussed … does it make sense to have one pre-K to 5 school, because it’s just more efficient (with) cost savings.”

Both facilities were built in 1960 to each house K-5 students at two ends of Bath, but more recently were divided. Dike Newell (3 Wright Drive), has 225 students, and Fisher Mitchell (597 High St.), has 210, according to Manuel.

Meanwhile, he said his main focus is on the “mammoth project” being undertaken by the Wing Farm business park: construction of a new Morse High School, due to open in January 2021. But “we’re trying to look in the future at the same time.”

Like that project, the district would have to find a location for a new school, Manuel said.

“We’re looking down the road into the future, quite frankly,” Bill Perkins, a member of both the RSU 1 board and its Facilities Committee, said Oct. 11, pointing out that maintaining both buildings and fixing issues as they arise “is kind of like holding them together now. … The boiler goes, or there’s a problem with the canopy at Fisher Mitchell. Or there’s a problem with a pipe down at Dike Newell.”

RSU 1 doesn’t want to “keep spending money on buildings that ultimately we’re going to have to replace anyway, or completely rebuild,” Perkins said. “So why not get some state aid, and we either replace the two of them in their current locations, or consolidate the two of them, which probably makes more sense, but that’s up to the community.”

A committee of district residents could be formed to discuss the pros and cons of the various options, and ensure public input, Perkins said.

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