Bob Bery casts his ballot at Scarborough High School on Tuesday morning. The Scarborough resident said that the proposed new school was the biggest issue for him: “Our taxes are already pretty high.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Scarborough voters rejected a controversial $160 million K-3 unified school project designed to modernize and address crowding issues in the town’s schools.

Residents voted 5,913 to 3,363 against the plan.

The project would have consolidated three primary schools and all third-graders into one new building, moved sixth-graders into Wentworth School and renovated Scarborough Middle School.

It would have eliminated 30 portable classrooms, including 18 at K-2 schools and 12 at the middle school. The entire sixth-grade has been learning in portables for almost two decades. The new primary school was to be built on land to be purchased from The Downs – a site selected from 46 potential locations that is part of the former Scarborough Downs multi-use redevelopment project.

Betty Perry puts on a sticker after voting at Scarborough High School on Tuesday morning. Perry, a substitute teacher in Scarborough, said: “I know how hard the portables can be. We can just cross our fingers and hope for the new school.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Proponents called the school proposal a cost-effective solution that aligned with the town’s commitment to educational excellence while also bringing broader community and economic benefits. They said The Downs was the ideal location to unite students on one campus and foster a collaborative community among educators, students and families.

Opponents said the project was too expensive and the new school, designed for 1,130 students, would be too large. They also raised concerns about the proposed deal with the developers of The Downs, including the $16 million cost for the land and off-site improvements, zoning changes, tax incentives and the impact on the existing neighborhood.

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