The Cape Elizabeth School Board has rejected two proposals from a split School Building Advisory Committee and instead called for a compromise between the two options to address problems at the aging elementary and middle schools.

The board wants to see a plan for a new middle school and upgrades at Pond Cove Elementary and the high school “at a price the community has signaled it will support,” said School Board Chair Elizabeth Scifres.

“We’re looking for a compromise that doesn’t compromise our students’ needs,” she told the Sentry on Wednesday.

The School Board’s decision came after advisory committee members presented arguments for two proposals at a workshop last week. The committee voted 5-4 on May 9 to recommend renovations and a two-story addition to the town’s aging elementary and middle schools, “Option B.” The four members opposed to that plan preferred “Option E,” which calls for a new middle school with some additions and renovations at the elementary school.

“The School Board declined to embrace either solution as presented,” Scifres said.  “After thoughtfully considering all information presented, including robust community input, the board directed Superintendent Chris Record to pursue a compromise solution.”

The nine-member advisory committee, currently awaiting further direction, is made up of two School Board members, two town councilors and five residents.


At the School Board’s May 21 workshop, resident member Michael Hussey spoke in favor of Option B, emphasizing at the May 21 board workshop that Option B right-sizes the elementary school, provides a dedicated performing arts space that also serves as a space for gym classes and preserves the school campus’ athletic fields. He also argued that Option E focuses predominantly on the middle school, overlooking a number of needs at the elementary school.

Option E’s price tag, estimated to cost $110 million to $118 million, is “financially out of sync” with residents, Hussey said, “echoing issues that caused the 2022 referendum defeat.” The 2022 proposal rang in at roughly $116 million and failed 3,817 to 2,337. Meanwhile, Option B is estimated to cost $77.3 million to $85.5 million.

Resident committee member Corinne Bell spoke in favor of a new middle school, arguing that it is the most cost-effective option. She referenced estimates that, for the average homeowner in Cape Elizabeth, Option B would cost $2.11 a day while Option E would cost $3.11.

“The cost difference to households between concepts B and E is approximately $1 per day with three times the project’s lifespan,” Bell said.

It is estimated that a new middle school would last 40-60 years before renovations become critical while the renovations at the elementary school would hold up for 10-20 years. Option B lines the town up to take on issues at both schools simultaneously within the next two decades, Bell argued, while Option E staggers the timelines.

Both options also include renovations at the high school.


Lisa Sawin of Harriman, architects and consultants for the project, compared the two options’ ability to meet the superintendent’s programming goals and a list of priorities developed in the early stages of the renewed quest for a solution.

Option B meets priorities in the main office, nurse clinic, cafeteria and technology in the school district, Sawin said. However, it only partially addresses priorities like safety and security, pedestrian and traffic movement, outdoor learning, and travel time between classes.

“The layout for B still has long hallways. It is improved by the addition of a cafeteria, by putting it in that central location it reduces travel distance in the middle school,” she said. “However, in the elementary school, they still have to go that distance to (other spaces).”

Meanwhile, the new middle school would have a less sprawling design, which Sawin said heightens safety with better supervision by staff and quicker evacuations in the case of emergencies. Both designs call for other safety upgrades at the schools, including moving main offices closer to entrances and needed space in the nurse’s office.

The major drawback of the new middle school option remains the estimated price tag being similar to what failed in 2022. Some committee members in favor of that option have expressed a desire to fundraise for certain parts of the new middle school to lower the cost.

The Board expects to receive an update on designs at its June 11 meeting. A public forum on the new designs is scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 24 at Town Hall.

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