Jeff Porter, superintendent of School Administrative District 51, discusses the need for a new primary school in the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district at a Nov. 18 School Board meeting. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 voters could decide less than a year from now whether to build a new primary school.

SAD 51’s Elementary Education Steering Committee wants a new pre-kindergarten to second-grade school on one of three town-owned sites in North Yarmouth and Cumberland. The School Board is due Dec. 2 to vote on that recommendation.

Project architect Oak Point Associates would then work with the education committee to produce a final design by June 2020.

The building’s cost and size will be determined in the coming months, Porter said.

The project would go before voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

Two sites in the center of North Yarmouth are being considered: one near Wescustogo Hall & Community Center and one at Sharp’s Field, next to Town Hall.

A town-owned tract in Cumberland, bordered by Tuttle Road and the Town Forest, is also on the table.

The push for a new school is being driven by increasing enrollment. Although two independent surveys concluded  10 years ago that enrollment this year would be 1,775-1,831, it reached 2,129 this year, including 28 pre-K students. An October enrollment study forecasts enrollment to surpass 2,700 by 2028-29.

Enrollment at the Wilson School, which has a capacity for 600 students, has risen from 541 in March 2015 to 692 this September, causing three modular classrooms to be installed outside the building.

“You have to prepare your facilities to be able to flex with the ups and the downs,” Porter said.

A four-facility district – with a primary school, a grades 3-5 intermediate school at Wilson, grades 6-8 at Greely Middle, and 9-12 at Greely High – would be the right number to weather those peaks and valleys, he added.

On Monday, Cumberland resident Bruce Sherwin told the school board he was worried about tax increases, saying a new school might have been a higher priority to him than the Greely Center for the Arts, which opened early this year at the high school. The project’s price tag of up to $9.5 million was controversial; support from Cumberland and North Yarmouth voters in November 2016 came by a margin of only 2%, 4,149 to 3,953.

Bob Vail, a Cumberland councilor who served 15 years on the School Board, said building a new school “costs a lot of money, and it’s going to be a very hard pill for a lot of people in the communities to swallow.”

“When I retire I probably will have to sell my home and move to another community,” Vail said.

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