More than two dozen Cape Elizabeth residents have applied for five seats on the town’s new school building advisory committee.

Interviews with the 26 applicants began Monday and will wrap up Thursday, Feb. 9.

The five residents selected are expected to play a pivotal role in how the town addresses what to do about the aging elementary and middle schools in the wake of voters’ sound defeat last fall of a $115.9 million building project.

“We are a small community, and it’s imperative that all views and opinions collaborate together to create a solution that works for the town as a whole,” Town Councilor and Appointments Committee member Nichole Boucher told The Forecaster. “I’m excited about this opportunity to restart the school building project in a way that feels more thoughtful to data, process and community engagement.”

The town began debating whether a renovation or rebuild of the elementary and middle school, currently one building, would be most appropriate and cost-effective in 2017. After COVID-19 put a pause on the planning process in 2020, work resumed in late 2021 with designs for a complete rebuild.

The $115.9 million project became a heated issue in town and was ultimately turned down by voters with many of those in opposition saying it was too pricey.

In order for a building project to succeed this time around, said Town Councilor and Appointments Committee member Tim Reiniger, it will be “critically important” that the citizen members study and understand the state guidelines for new school construction projects. The guidelines include how many square feet to allocate per student, which the failed proposal exceeded.

“We are fortunate to have many applicants who could serve this role well,” Reiniger wrote in an email to The Forecaster.

Other town committees have also drawn large pools of resident applicants recently, according to Boucher, who is serving her third year on the Appointments Committee. The Housing Diversity Study Committee attracted 16 applicants and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee drew 19 applicants.

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