CASCO — Renovations at Crooked River Elementary School are on track for completion in July, and the school will be ready this fall for its first students since its closure in 2009, the superintendent said this week.

The $9 million project approved by voters in March 2019 includes a two-story addition to the 36-year-old building with a revamped gym, raised stage/performance space, a 125-student capacity cafeteria. The school also will receive a new fire sprinkler system, new sidewalks, a bus loop and other upgrades.

The school closed in 2009 as a cost-cutting measure. About 10 years later, however, the cost of leasing modular classrooms for an overflow of students at Songo Locks Elementary in Naples exceeded the cost of renovating Crooked River in the long run, according to Superintendent Al Smith.

Though the district pushed back its target completion date last February when cost projections came in over budget, the project is now “within budget and we’re within the scope and timeframe of the project being completed,” Smith said.

If anything, Smith said, he expects project contractor, Great Falls Construction of Gorham, to finish a bit early. District staff should be able to start preparing the building for the fall semester by July.

Payments on the 20-year bond for the project will kick in for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, but Smith said the approximately $660,000 in annual costs will not impact the upcoming SAD 61 budget, the first draft of which will probably be ready by next week.

The Lake Region School District, SAD 61, serves the towns of Casco, Naples and Bridgton. Sebago withdrew from SAD 61 in 2017 to form a one-school district and sends middle schoolers and high schoolers to Lake Region schools on a tuition basis.

Debt payments for the middle school renovations were retired this year and for Stevens Brook Elementary School last year and with Crooked River serving students in grades 3-5, the district will no longer need to lease portables at Songo Locks, which cost SAD 61 about $108,000 a year. Those three debts added up to about $648,000 a year.

The project adds 28,000 square feet to the Casco campus, for a total of 60,000 square feet. Construction began about 18 months ago, Smith said.

“This project has pretty much completely renovated all spaces of the original Crooked River school,” Andy Madura, the district’s transportation, facilities and food service director, said in a video tour that was filmed in January and posted to the district website.

Songo Locks will continue to serve pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first and second grade students. Smith said he expects enrollment to be fairly even between the two schools at about 225 students each.

Adult Education and Special Services, which was located at Crooked River prior to the start of construction, will remain housed in the large, refurbished portable owned by the district that’s located behind the high school.

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