Future students of the new middle school in South Portland from Skillin Elementary School at the groundbreaking ceremony on June 3. They are accompanied by Michael Johanning, architect for WBRC. The school is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. Catherine Bart photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — After 15 years of organizing and planning, construction on the new South Portland middle school has begun, with Skillin Elementary students, future attendees, breaking ground on June 3.

Construction of the $69.3 million school is underway behind Memorial Middle School on Wescott Street. Groundbreaking ceremony attendees were standing on what would be the new school’s cafeteria, said Superintendent Ken Kunin.

The state of Maine will fund $59 million of the project, with $10 million covered by local funds. Completion of the school is expected by the fall of 2023.

Kunin said in a previous school board meeting that this is the first South Portland school to receive state funding.

“We’re excited to watch each day as Harvey Construction, along with a long list of subcontractors, take what was a vision and with the efforts of Mike Johanning and the WBRC team, was transferred into a plan with hundreds of upon hundreds of pages of drawings and specifications into a center of learning for our students and our community for many, many years to come,” he said.

Superintendent Ken Kunin at the new South Portland middle school groundbreaking ceremony on June 3. Catherine Bart photo

The new middle school will serve students in grades five through eight, Kunin said.

“Over these many years together have been countless committee meetings, board meetings, city council meetings, planning board presentations, community forums, two community straw polls and a referendum, which overwhelmingly approved the concept and bonding for this wonderful new school for our community,” Kunin said.

School and city officials thanked the community for its hard work over the years to make the school a reality.

South Portland School Board chair Richard Matthews thanked the people of South Portland schools and beyond.

“This has been a community effort, a state effort, and we should all just be proud because at the end of our journey we now have a treasure and that treasure is going to provide for our community for many, many years,” he said.

Councilor Deqa Dhalac (District 5 ) said she was proud of the city’s combined efforts.

“It’s something that we all can celebrate together,” she said.

Acknowledging the school will be constructed on traditional Wabanaki land, Kunin said that the school district will continue to educate students about the Wabanaki.

“As we put our shovels in the ground for this new school to serve students for decades and decades to come, the South Portland Schools is committed to making the past, present and the future of the Wabanaki people visible in this new school and in all of our schools and all of our classrooms,” he said.

Kunin thanked the Maine Department of Education, saying the department was valuable through the process.

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