Construction on the new Morse High School is nearing completion, about two months later than initially planned. Photo courtesy of Cuyler Feagles

BATH — While the construction of the new Morse High School in Bath is nearing completion, it won’t be done as soon as initially planned.

The high school is scheduled to be handed over to Regional School Unit 1 next month with students resuming classes on Feb. 25, which is later than its initial December target date, according to Cuyler Feagles, RSU 1 clerk of the works.

Feagles credited the two-month delay to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which arrived in Maine last March.

“Mostly the impact we’ve had is delayed deliveries from manufacturers,” said Feagles. “Getting supplies has been much slower as a result of COVID-19.”

Feagles said builders aren’t able to hire more workers to speed up construction, in part because of COVID-19 limits how many people are allowed in certain parts of the building at a time. The state has also seen “an absolutely unprecedented building boom” during the pandemic, Feagles said, making it difficult to find workers available to hire.

“This is also a largely state-funded project, and so because of that, workers must follow state COVID-19 guidelines,” said Feagles. “Work is somewhat slower because we have to take precautions like daily cleaning and having everyone check-in every day now.”

Built by New Hampshire-based Harvey Construction, the school will house Morse High School and the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center. With a total of just over 600 students, Morse High School is the only high school in Regional School Unit 1, which serves Bath, Phippsburg, Arrowsic and Woolwich.

Patrick Manual, RSU 1 Superintendent, said work is ongoing seven days a week to have the school ready for teachers and administrators to move in in mid-February.

“Harvey construction continues to make steady progress with the new Morse High School/Bath Tech,” said Manuel. “Students are scheduled to begin classes at the new school on February 25th. We are excited to open this impressive facility that will benefit our students, staff, and the community.”

Once complete, the new school at the Wing Farm Business Park will stand three-stories tall and cover nearly 186,000 square feet, slightly larger than the current Morse High School building on High Street. The school will have two gyms, two athletic fields, and a theater.

Feagles said a few nonessential portions of the building, including the theater and band room, won’t be completely finished when classes resume, but workers will finish them while students are in school.

“The kids have to be in, so those are the least necessary and the easiest to finish while kids are in school,” said Feagles. “Workers are able to finish work while kids are going about their daily activities. We don’t want workers in the middle of their school day.”

Despite being a bit behind schedule, the project remains on budget, according to Manuel.

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.

Once complete, the existing Morse High School will be turned over to the city to be repurposed. The city has three main ideas for how to repurpose the school, all of which involve repurposing some of the building into housing, Assistant Bath City Manager Marc Meyers told The Times Record last November.

Meyers said the city doesn’t plan on changing the brick façade. None of the possible renovations include plans for the theater or gymnasium, as those were sections of the school alumni said they wanted to be preserved.

While Bath residents and Morse alumni have offered suggestions, Meyers said the jury’s still out on what the building will become and there’s no firm deadline on remodeling.

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