Masonry along the southern facade of the new Morse High School in Bath will soon be underway. Courtesy Regional School Unit 1

BATH — The new Morse High School is on schedule and budget for completion this December and opening in February 2021, despite the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Harvey Construction of Bedford, New Hampshire, which is building the 186,658-square-foot structure, and Topsham-based Crooker Construction, which is handling site work, remain on site.

Work has “been constant,” Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said. “They’ve been coming, they’ve been working … I can’t predict the future, but right now we’re still having people show up and doing the work on the project.”

Manual didn’t know how many people at a time are on site, but noted that workers are practicing social distancing within the building, and Harvey Construction checks on them as they arrive, to “keep an eye on the health and safety of everybody there.”

Steve August, chairman of the RSU 1 Board of Directors, said he was satisfied with the progress.

“In spite of all the disruption that’s out there – and the story obviously is evolving very rapidly, and the situation could change very rapidly – but at present things seem to be progressing,” August said, expressing hope that the project can remain on schedule.

The building, which will incorporate the Bath Regional Career & Technical Center, is about 20,000 square feet larger than the 1920s-era Morse High and neighboring technical center combined. The city will take ownership of the original 826 High St. school, and is considering options for reusing the building.

RSU 1 voters in November 2017 approved a construction bond by a 3-1 margin. The state is funding $67.4 million of the $75.3 million cost; $7.2 million is to be paid locally through borrowing, with $700,000 earmarked from fundraising.

The school will be built for a population of 650, have two gyms and two athletic fields, and an enhanced theater.

Floor slabs for first-floor classrooms, and auditorium and balcony have been placed; slabs for the automotive, carpentry and welding areas have yet to be laid. Masonry work on the building’s southern facade is underway, along with roof-to-wall sealing, and installation of skylight wells over the gym and other parts of the building.

Interior partition walls – the metal skeleton onto which Sheetrock is placed – are more than half complete, Manuel said. The elevator is being installed, and permanent power has been brought to the facility’s transformer, although Central Maine Power has yet to energize it, he said.

Steel was to be installed this week around a bridge that is part of the access road from Congress Avenue into the site – formerly known as Anchor Road, but likely to have a new name that reflects Bath’s shipbuilding heritage.

“They’ve really built up the entrance with dirt and fill, and it’s fairly even now with Congress Avenue,” Manuel said.

RSU 1 is due in December to assume occupancy of the building, and classes are to begin there after February vacation. Although RSU 1 had eyed a start right after Christmas break, the extra month allows faculty more time to coordinate classroom schedules and the demands of the move, August said.

“It should work well for the students, additionally,” he noted.

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