The Dike Newell School in Bath after a fire broke out June 10, 2022. Maria Skillings / Times Record file photo

Local leaders are appealing to the Maine Board of Education to help rebuild Bath’s Dike Newell Elementary School, which was heavily damaged in an alleged arson last year.

The state’s 2017-2018 Capital School Construction Fund list, which outlines the state’s top candidates for subsidized school construction projects, had Dike Newell ranked 50th out of 74. The school serves students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Bath’s Fisher Mitchell Elementary School, which serves about 200 students in grades three through five, was ranked 22nd.

Local lawmakers and school officials are hoping that the fire, while devastating, will make the Dike Newell replacement a higher priority.

This school year, the roughly 225 elementary school students were moved to temporary classrooms at the former Bath Regional Career and Technical Center on High Street. Workers made elevator upgrades, installed a new video surveillance system and built areas for students to put coats and winter gear outside classrooms. The community also raised $10,000 for books and musical instruments.

State Sen. Eloise Vitelli, a Democrat whose district includes Bath, last week toured the technical center and said while it’s impressive the building was outfitted for the students, it’s not a long-term solution.

“I admire the administration and faculty who have creatively turned this old building into classrooms that deliver a range of services and meet diverse needs,” Vitelli said in a statement. “I’m also deeply impressed by the outpouring of support from the community. … But it’s not enough. These students cannot stay here forever. It’s unsafe and unsuitable for their learning.”


The toilets and sinks at the old technical center are adult-size, making step stools necessary for students, according to Vitelli. The old Morse High School cafeteria is used both as a cafeteria and for physical education classes. The library does not have shelves, so books are stored in bins.

Vitelli said the state Board of Education should designate building a new elementary school in Bath an emergency project that’s in “dire” need of financial assistance.

State Sen. Eloise Vitelli (left), state Rep. Allison Hepler (center) and Dike Newell Elementary School Principal Jennifer McKay tour the temporary classrooms for displaced Dike Newell Elementary School students. Courtesy of Sen. Eloise Vitelli’s office

The technical center building was abandoned two years ago when the center moved to its new home alongside the new Morse High School on Shipbuilder Drive. The old building’s boiler heating system is out-of-date, students drink bottled water because lead levels have not been tested in the water system and the playground is by the busy High Street downtown, creating possible safety issues for students, according to Vitelli.

“It’s the best scenario we can make for our students, but we’re still in a school in an abandoned building,” Superintendent Patrick Manuel said.

Manuel said he and school officials will travel to Augusta on Friday to appeal to the Board of Education to consider a new elementary school an emergency project. The plan is to then build a new elementary school that would combine Dike Newell and Fisher Mitchell students, Manuel said.

“From a financial standpoint and education standpoint, building a pre-K to (grade) five school makes more sense looking forward,” Manuel said.

The superintendent said the district has received $7.2 million in insurance payouts from the fire and expects to receive more money. He said he could not estimate how much a new school combining Dike Newell and Fisher Mitchell would cost.

Police said Allan Thomas Vigil, 30, of Bath, ignited the fire at Dike Newell in June. Fire crews extinguished the blaze, but two days later, it reignited from still-smoldering embers, officials said. Vigil was charged with a Class A felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

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