CAPE ELIZABETH —The Cape Elizabeth School Building Advisory Committee hosted a public forum at town hall on Feb. 1, revealing seven preliminary design options for Pond Cove Elementary and Cape Elizabeth Middle schools. The community engagement event, according to school officials, emphasized the role of public feedback for the November 2024 referendum.

Cindy Voltz, a Cape Elizabeth School Board and building committee co-chair, stressed the necessity of community involvement: “For the success of a November 2024 referendum, we need community feedback. Your input now on these ideas is critical so that when you go to the ballots in November, you have an option you believe in.”

Residents gather to hear the presentation about the seven options for possible K-8 school building solutions. Courtesy image/Town of Cape Elizabeth

Voltz provided an overview of the committee’s collaborative efforts, formed a year ago with representatives from the school board, town council, and citizens. The committee has conducted a comprehensive survey and collaborated with Harriman Architects.

Penny Jordan, town councilor and building committee co-chair, said, “There is a lot of work we have to do to get the seven options down to three. We want to make good, wise investments.”

Jordan introduced Lisa Sawin from Harriman Architects, who detailed the seven preliminary design options addressing aging school infrastructure affecting safety, well-being, and operating budgets. Sawin highlighted deficiencies in outdoor spaces, thermal bridging, ADA accessibility, and other critical aspects across the schools.

“The school department has aging school infrastructure that is failing and affecting the safety and well-being of occupants as well as weighing heavily on operating budgets,” Sawin said.


Option A focuses on basic repairs, while options B and C feature extensive additions and renovations, increasing in scale and cost. Options D, E, and F propose varying combinations of new construction and renovations for middle and elementary schools. Option G is new construction for both schools. Sawin said the options are aimed at addressing the community’s educational needs, safety standards, and modern learning environments.

During the forum, Sawin provided an overview of the options, categorizing them into repairing only, repairing and additions, renovation/reconfiguration, renovation/reconfiguration plus addition, phased new construction, full new construction, and miscellaneous improvements for the high school.

Matt Sturgis, town manager, addressed the town’s financial perspective and the importance of a fiscally responsible plan over the next ten years.

“The big question is looking at the town’s current debt level and finding how the town can afford whatever plan we move forward with,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis provided insights into the town’s finances, debt service, and plans for future expenditures. Sturgis emphasized the town’s healthy fund balance and ongoing efforts to reduce debt.

Residents were encouraged to submit their feedback through the Cape Elizabeth building committee website, where the entire presentation and informational flyers are available.


Tony Armstrong made a public comment about the cost disparity between renovation and new construction. He said it seems cheaper to build new than to renovate. Sawin responded, pointing out the challenges of renovating existing structures, dealing with unknowns, and working around existing conditions.

Heather Altenberg raised concerns about the long-term costs. “That number 675 million over 40 years is like, wow,” said Altenberg. “That should be part of the conversation; it is the other half of the story.”

Sawin acknowledged the importance of discussing long-term costs and committed to incorporating it into future discussions.

Several public comments expressed confidence in the presentation’s organization but sought clarification on the reasons behind cost increases. The committee assured residents that they were working on cost estimates and would provide detailed information on tax impacts in the coming weeks.

The issue of bonding and potential state co-funding was also raised, with concerns about the town’s position on the state’s priority list for funding. Sawin explained that while the town had not applied for state co-funding, they were considering it for future planning. She highlighted the significance of state funding in implementing safety and security measures.

Sawin emphasized that the proposed solutions aimed to make the school buildings more energy-efficient, exploring options like heat pumps, grants, and solar fields. She assured residents that no stone was left unturned in seeking cost-effective solutions. Additionally, Sawin addressed the importance of contingency plans, ensuring flexibility in the face of unexpected challenges.

Over the next couple of weeks, the building committee will work to narrow down these options.

“I encourage you to go to to submit your feedback for the School Building Advisory Committee to review, even if you did not see the forum,” wrote Superintendent of Schools Chris Record on the advisory committee website. “Please note the high dollar amount range for each option includes full cooling for each school.”

Timeline for the November referendum. Courtesy photo/Feb. 1 public forum

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