CAPE ELIZABETH – The town is deciding whether to spend upwards of $20 million to renovate the elementary/middle school and Cape Elizabeth High School, or build one or more new schools.

A 2019 report from design and engineering firm Colby Company estimates the combined Pond Elementary School and Cape Elizabeth Middle School is in need of $12.5 million in repairs and Cape Elizabeth High School needs $7.4 million.

Pond Cove and Cape Middle are connected and comprise two original structures built in 1938 and 1948, with additions built in 1955, 1960, 1962, 1994 and 2004. The building has a total footprint of 144,000 square feet.

“The school has been piecemealed over the years,” said Colby company engineer James Hebert at a building committee meeting held Tuesday at the middle school.

The school building committee is considering several options: replacing the middle school and renovating the high school, replacing the middle school in stages and renovating the high school, or renovating all the buildings.

There is no estimate available for a new middle and elementary school facility, although several years ago the town estimated that it could cost $27 million. There is no estimate for a new high school.

According to the report, at the middle/elementary school, the roof and exterior masonry need repairs, new flooring is needed in some areas, and corroded sprinkler system parts that are functional but leak need to be replaced, along with exhaust fans that don’t meet code requirements. Sinks that were built before lead-free plumbing was required also need replacing.

The school also has a walk-in cooler with multiple signs of deterioration and rust spots on the floor, inadequate heating and ventilation and windows that need to be replaced.

The elementary/middle school also has a band room that cannot accommodate the number of music students, counseling areas that are too small and a combined cafeteria/auditorium too small for the needs of both schools, according to the report.

The roof and floors need to be repaired at the high school and windows need to be replaced, along with upgrades to wiring and emergency lighting. The report also states that the nurse’s office and other office space need to be reconfigured, gender-neutral bathrooms need to be added and upgrades to wiring and emergency lighting are needed, along with new ceilings.

The report also states that open storage space at the high school kitchen is inadequate, and a handicapped lift for accessibility into the metal shop needs to be replaced.

All school facilities need front door security systems, according to the report.

Perry Schwarz, director of facilities and transportation, said over time a new facility could save money in utilities, as newer buildings have lower operational costs. He said the operational cost per square foot at the high school is $1.88 and at the middle school it’s $2.17. In contrast, Scarborough High School costs $1.05 per square foot to operate and Waynflete Lower School has an operational cost of just 65 cents per square foot.

Committee member Mary Ann Lynch was concerned that the town could not afford a new school.

“What I want is to see a successful project and a wonderful place for our kids. I just don’t know how we get there,” she said.

School board member Elizabeth Scifres said the decision is ultimately the voters’, who would have to approve bonding and how much leverage the town had to spend “without cashing out the college fund.”

Superintendent of Schools Donna Wolfrom said the committee will continue to review the recommendations at its next meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 at Cape Elizabeth High School. Recommendations from the committee will be reviewed by the school board as a whole.

“We may have recommendations at the end of the next meeting, and we may not,” Wolfrom said. “It’s worth spending the time to get it right.”

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