CAPE ELIZABETH — The school board voted unanimously at its last meeting of 2020 to use a single bond to replace the elementary and middle school buildings and allocate funding for renovations at the high school.

The vote signals the resumption of a process that had been put on the back burner by the coronavirus pandemic. Board Chairperson Heather Altenburg, who also chairs the district’s building committee, said the pandemic “did cause us to pause our process from about April until October.”

According to the announcement on the town’s website, the board voted on Dec. 15, based on the recommendations of the building committee. The recommendations came after months of inspections, tours and meetings dating back to the summer of 2017.

“By virtue of examining how to improve the safety of the elementary and middle school buildings, the need to address the buildings’ failing infrastructure became the primary objective,” town officials said in the statement.

Portland-based engineering firm Colby Company Engineers presented its findings to the committee in October 2019. According to documents from the town, the company’s findings boiled down to four suggested courses of action:

• Phasing elementary school and middle school building replacement into two different projects. This would last 10 or more years and require two separate bonds.
• Replacing both elementary and middle school buildings, a project lasting approximately four years and requiring only one bond. This was ultimately the option the committee recommended and the board voted on.
• Restoration and renovation of the current elementary and middle schools within four years through one bond, but adding the rental of portable temporary classrooms.
• Improving front-entrance security and cafetorium upgrades at both the elementary and middle schools over a period of two to three years.

The committee decided against the latter two options in October and November 2020, according to the announcement, due to financial concerns, before deciding on the joint bond option.

School Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said she was pleased with the committee’s recommendations.

“The discussion was rich and we spent a great deal of time talking about the pros and cons of the various options,” she said. “I think the process was a good one.”

The cost of the new projects has not been determined. Altenburg said the board’s next steps are to hire architects and engineers to create more detailed and specific proposals.

“The cost of that bond will be clearer after a schematic design, which will take many months,” she said.

According to the announcement on the town’s website, “Once the schematic design is complete, the expectation is that the bond referendum could go to the voters approximately one year later.”

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