Construction is underway on a $69.3 million middle school in South Portland expected to open its doors to students in September 2023.

City and state officials gathered Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony and to acknowledge that the new school will be built on the traditional land of the Wabanaki people.

“This day has long been in the making, and we are delighted by what it means for the next generation of South Portland’s amazing students, teachers and families,” said South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin in a news release.

“After the shared losses we have experienced over the past 14 months, it’s especially a joy to celebrate the expanded educational opportunities our state-of-the-art new middle school will offer thousands of South Portland students in the years to come.”

The new school, which is being built near Memorial Middle School on Wescott Road, will replace the city’s two current middle schools and is expected to serve 850 to 900 students when it opens for the start of the 2023-24 school year. Its design will separate grades 5 and 6 from grades 7 and 8 to create the feeling of two smaller schools within one.

Voters approved the project in November 2019 and it is the first state-funded major school construction project in South Portland history. The state is funding $59.3 million of the cost while $10 million will come from local funds. It will also include renovation of the school department’s transportation facility and the relocation of its central receiving and facilities office.

Building features will include a geothermal heating system, rooftop solar panels, increased classroom space for the district’s music program and a larger gym and multi-purpose room. The state also agreed to pay for $350,000 in pedestrian and traffic improvements close to the building site.

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