Cape Elizabeth voters on Tuesday struck down an effort to rebuild the elementary and middle schools by nearly 1,500 votes. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth will not be building new elementary and middle schools – at least not in the near future.

Residents voted 3,817 to 2,337 Tuesday against allowing the town to borrow $115.9 million for the project. Roughly 71% of Cape Elizabeth’s voters cast ballots.

There seems to be no one in Cape Elizabeth who is content with the current state of the aging combined school building, which has numerous safety concerns, but how to address the issue – and at what cost – divided residents in the months leading up to the election.

The proposed project came with an estimated 22.6% property tax increase. In addition, opponents took issue with the project’s $115.9 million price tag and its size of over 219,000 square feet, arguing that a smaller and less expensive rebuild is the right path forward. Others against the project said renovating the buildings should do the trick.

“We began with the assumption that we could do better, and the voters agreed that we can do better,” opponent Mary Ann Lynch, a former town councilor, said Wednesday in an email to The Forecaster. “Hopefully, the council and School Board will listen to Cape voters and come up with a proposal that works for all the people of Cape Elizabeth.”

Project supporters argued that the schools are beyond their useful life and are not energy-efficient. Simply renovating them will delay the inevitable and create an even larger tax burden down the line, they said.


“While many of us are disappointed with the outcome of the new school bond vote, we are excited to continue to engage in the process to find a solution to our old, inefficient, patchwork, sprawling, cramped, and crowded elementary and middle schools,” Superintendent Christopher Record said in an email Wednesday.

“I very much appreciate the efforts of so many that have engaged in this process that began in 2017,” Record said. “The need for new schools is still very much a reality for the students and staff of Cape. I look forward to the next steps as the Building Oversight Committee, school board and Town Council consider our options.”

Safety concerns at the two schools will have to be addressed. Visitors now are required to walk through student-populated areas to get to front offices, as do workers making deliveries to the cafeteria. The school’s infrastructure, including narrow stairwells designated as emergency exits for entire grade levels, also poses a concern.

Other issues include cracks in the foundation, flickering lights, noisy utilities, damaged ceiling tiles, and a severe lack of space with hallways and offices doubling as storage space.

The oldest part of the Pond Cove Elementary and Middle School building was constructed in 1933. A separate building was added in 1948, splitting the two schools, before additions in 1955, 1956, 1962, 1994, and 2004 reconnected them.

The school project called for two school buildings connected via shared facilities, such as a gymnasium and cafeteria. Over $41 million would have gone toward the Pond Cove school, $54.4 million toward the middle school, and $15.5 million to shared facilities. An additional $4.9 million would have been allocated for renovations at the high school.

While the new schools proposed to voters on Nov. 8 will not come to fruition, Record believes rebuilding is still the best path forward.

“I remain optimistic that we will find a solution that will lead to the construction of new schools that will benefit our students, staff, and community for the next 50-plus years,” he said.


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