SOUTH PORTLAND — City voters overwhelmingly approved two spending proposals Tuesday totaling $71.6 million that will pay for a new consolidated middle school and related traffic improvements.

The vote was 3,234-962, 77 percent in favor, to borrow $69.3 million to build a new middle school. The project will receive $59.3 million in state funding and require $10 million to be raised locally for building upgrades not covered by the Maine Department of Education.

The vote was 3,216-795, 80 percent-20 percent, on a second bonding proposal to borrow an additional $2.3 million to be covered by local taxpayers for road and sidewalk improvements near the new middle school.

The new school will replace the city’s two aging middle schools – Mahoney and Memorial – and will be built next to Memorial Middle School on Wescott Road. Both schools have a variety of health, safety and structural issues.

“This is going to be great for the kids,” said School Committee Chairman Dick Matthews. “We’ve been working on this for four years. Thank you to the voters of South Portland.”

Building features to be funded by local taxpayers include a geothermal heating system, rooftop solar panels, increased classroom space for the district’s highly successful music program and a larger gym and multi-purpose room. The state kicked in $750,000 for the geothermal system because that’s the cost of a traditional heating system.

The state also agreed to pay for $350,000 in pedestrian and traffic improvements close to the building site. The bulk of the $2.3 million in local funding will create a multi-use path along Westbrook Street to safely connect Wescott Road to the Redbank neighborhood on the other side of Interstate 295.

At a straw poll held in June, residents voted 95-2 in favor of the project developed by a building committee and designed by WBRC Architects-Engineers. At a similar straw poll held in June 2018, residents voted 151-49 in favor of the new middle school’s location.

Construction is scheduled to start in late spring/early summer of 2021 and the new school is expected to open to students in September 2023. The energy-efficient, multi-story building will include two elevators and incorporate fifth-graders, freeing up much-needed space in the city’s five elementary schools.

Grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 will be housed in separate wings to address building size and age-related socialization concerns. Fifth- and sixth-graders will start school at least 45 minutes later than seventh- and eighth-graders to reduce traffic congestion.


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