A map of parcels shown to the school board by the building committee. Sites #3 and 39 refer to The Downs sites. Courtesy of Scarborough Public Schools Building Committee

Scarborough will pursue development of a new unified primary school at a lot of up to 25 acres at The Downs.  On May 4 the Scarborough Town Council voted unanimously to pursue an appraisal. The vote follows a Scarborough School Board meeting on April 27 that approved the Scarborough Public Schools Building Committee’s site selection.

Work on site selection has been ongoing with hours of work, including meetings with groups such as public forums, school board meetings, town council meetings and the building committee. Land availability in Scarborough, much of which is wetlands, made the search difficult, officials said.

Several factors were considered in the site selection process, such as being with a 1.5-mile radius of municipal campus, safety, environment, traffic/transportation safety, equitable bus ride times for students, public services, utility, capacity for future expansion, and other items.

“There were hours that went into even just the littlest details on these properties,” said school board member Jillian Trapini-Huff. “Nothing was taken lightly.”

A list of the top four of options were picked by the building committee: a site behind the Scarborough Hannaford owned by the Foley family, potential sites at The Downs, a site at Two Rod Road, and another site near Sam’s Club, owned by members of the Grondin family.

The committee recommended The Downs site as the best choice for all factors involved. The selection was approved by the school board.


“Scarborough Downs is by far and away the site that is the most favorable for developing this school,” said Dana Fortier, building committee chair and community member to the school board.

The idea of building a fourth primary school instead of a unified school was briefly discussed again, but strongly discouraged by Fortier.

“The fourth school option is one that becomes very problematic from a number of different perspectives,” Fortier said. “First and foremost, it would be the absolute most costly thing the town could do. You have to renovate three existing schools. Those three existing schools are nowhere near big enough to accept the programs that would go into them.”

Additionally, the four schools option would take 12 years to undergo, leaving the growing problem of capacity unsolved in the meantime. Inflation would affect a project with that timeline as well. Renovating current schools would also disrupt the students that would be attending them at the same time, and paying contractors to come after hours costs more.

“Having been here and been educated by all the work the committee has done, it has really impressed upon me the dedication and time that has gone into this,” said school board member Frayla Tarpinian. “There’s a lot of noise about town, because there’s noise in every town and we’re no exception. There’s a lot of discussion about The Downs and feelings about The Downs, and I’d like to pull this process out of any feelings toward The Downs in general. I think that’s inappropriate. Especially in light of sort of the amount of work that went into site selection and the fact that it wasn’t pre-determined … I don’t want to rehash the four schools versus one school, and this idea that we haven’t put that to bed. I think it has been put to bed … it’s extremely clear in the analysis why it’s impossible to do four schools and keep the existing primary schools.

“As much as my children go there and there is an emotional attachment to the schools where your children grow up in, and I can feel that, but those feelings can’t be borne at the cost of the next twelve years of children moving through our school district.”


Following the school board meeting, the town council approved pursuing an appraisal for an as of yet unspecified lot at The Downs of up to 25 acres.

Several community members spoke up at the town council meeting, including school staff members pledging their support of the project.

“I am speaking in support of the building project,” said Kathy Tirrell, principal of Scarborough Middle School. “It is a K-8 solution. Each year when I present my budget to the school board, we talk about our successes and we also talk about our challenges. And I talk about the space at the middle school each year. Our entire sixth grade is in the standalone portable building. This year that’s 224 students.”

The draft timeline of the project, with potential to change, was discussed. Scarborough’s Town Manager Tom Hall can begin the appraisal process of the land to negotiate purchase price by July 31. On May 17, the council hopes to approve letter of intent terms and authorize the town manager to negotiate an option agreement. More meetings with the town council and school board and public forums will take place throughout the year, with the goal to put a vote on referendum for November.

“This is the first step in this process. I think this aligns with our council goal to facilitate the school project and be partners in this process,” said councilor April Sither. “They cannot move the school building project farther along without an appraisal on a piece of property and that’s what we’re authorizing Tom (Hall) to do.”

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