RSU 14 received some wonderful news this month about the Windham Middle School construction project.

After two years of waiting, the Maine Department of Education announced that the project to replace the 44-year-old school will be moving forward. The district took the first significant step of the process last week when it officially advertised for architectural services for the project.

Chris Howell is the superintendent for Windham and Raymond schools.

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students. The current enrollment of the school is 636 students. Over the years, the Field Allen School has had several minor renovations and has been used for some middle school programs. Most recently, two new classrooms were added to the Field Allen building to accommodate a large sixth grade class. The main building has served the district well over the years, but it is starting to show signs that it is reaching the end of its usable life cycle as a school building. Aside from its inability to have all middle school students under one roof, it has small classrooms, outdated science rooms, restroom facilities that do not meet modern requirements, a worn-out heating system, outdated windows and a less-than-adequate electrical system.

The district submitted an application to the Major Capital Construction Program in 2016. Through this program, school districts have the opportunity to apply for construction funds through the state. The program is highly competitive as a positive rating in the process can lead to a significant financial savings for school districts because most construction costs for school projects selected through this program will be covered by the state. In the latest application round, 74 school projects were rated to determine which schools showed the highest need. Windham Middle School was rated as having the fifth highest priority.

There are 21 steps in the school construction process for state-funded projects. The first three steps are related to the application for a building. The project started Step 4 last week when an advertisement was completed for architectural services for the project. Once an architectural firm is selected, the district will work with that firm to complete an analysis of new vs. renovation and to conduct an analysis of possible sites in the district to construct a new building.

Work towards developing a vision for the new building started over a year ago. The district engaged the services Frank Locker, an experienced school planner who has worked with teams across the world to design and build new school buildings. Frank has been working with a group of stakeholders through a process of examining middle-level programming, student grouping, functionality and equipment, environment in the new learning space, future learning, and how the building can be used for all members of the RSU 14 community. A final report from the work of this group will be presented this spring. The document will be used by the architects to develop concept designs for the new building.

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