Members of the Scarborough Town Council and Board of Education discussed potential CIP request from the school board to continue to process of a consolidated primary school on Feb. 24. Catherine Bart photo

SCARBOROUGH — The Board of Education in Scarborough is hoping to receive more funds this budget in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, beginning July 1, to be allocated for additional planning for a consolidated primary school, which members discussed with town councilors on Feb. 24.

In January 2020, the Board of Education approved a recommendation from the Scarborough Building Steering Committee, charged with finding a solution to overcrowding at the primary schools. The recommendation was to consolidate the three schools, Blue Point, Eight Corners and Pleasant Hill.

The committee went on hiatus when the pandemic hit in March 2020, said Board Chair April Sither. The board secured funding in last year’s capital improvement budget, which has not yet been allocated, and hopes to secure funding this year, combining funds to begin the planning process for a consolidated school.

Sither said the steering committee was close to picking a firm to work with for the planning process before going on hiatus.

“We all just want to be on the same page in terms of making sure this request is understood and people don’t feel like we’re springing it on them,” she said.

Town Council Chair Paul Johnson and Councilor John Cloutier as well as Town Manager Tom Hall gave insight and recommendations to board members Kristen Turner, Sarah Leighton and Sither before the budget process formally begins. Johnson said this was “step zero” of the process.

There may have been a disconnect between how much planning the Town Council believed had been made for the consolidated school, said Johnson.

“I think there’s some of these things we thought there should be answers to but nobody knows them and that’s OK,” he said. “We need to find them, and we can invest some money to find those answers and that’s completely OK.”

If no action is taken, 45 percent of all students at Scarborough’s primary schools will have to have class in portables in order to serve the increasing population, said the School Board’s Building Steering Committee. Catherine Bart file photo

Having a clear understanding for the need (for a new school) is critical when securing funds, said Hall. Every member of the public should see a need.

“Every project I’ve been involved with and the ones that are successful, you need to establish the need,” he said. “It needs to be fundamentally understood universally as much as it can in town and then you talk about solutions. You’ve got to really document the need first and then the solutions second.”

“You guys are immersed in this and I don’t doubt you’ve done your work and have arrived at a very rational logical conclusion,” Hall, said, “but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are along with you.”

She agreed, Turner said.

“I think we do see the need which is how we landed there, and I think all this information is available,” she said. “It’s just a question of us putting it all together.”

She didn’t want people to think the decision came from nowhere, Leighton said, as the board did have a public hearing before approving the recommendation.

It could still be beneficial for the board to backtrack and focus in on the “why” of the project for the public and council’s benefit, Hall said.

“The ‘what and where’ will be figured out through this next level of exploration,” he said.

The community could support the project and planning, Cloutier said, but the direction needs to be clear.

“Right now it’s still very abstract to me, and there’s a whole number of school projects I think I could fully get behind,” he said. “I just don’t know enough details right now to really even opine on this one.”

This year’s budget may prioritize people over projects, said Cloutier. However, he said, he is not certain how things will look.

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