The site of a new middle school is shown in yellow, and the teal marks show elementary school additions. Contributed / Harriman Architects

Cape Elizabeth is closing in on a compromise solution to the town’s aging and sprawling schools, a plan that officials think could likely secure voter approval by a large margin.

Elected officials and community members have been torn between a plan to build a new middle school with additions and renovations at the elementary school at a cost of over $110 million and a $77.9 million project for just additions and renovations at the two schools, which are currently combined in one building.

Harriman Architects presented a compromise between the two plans last week at the request of the school board, and the board and Town Council held a joint workshop on Monday to discuss it.

The compromise rings in at roughly $89.9 million and would come with an estimated 10% property tax increase. It calls for a new middle school, but pares back some of the elements in the original new school option, such as eliminating a performance space.

Meanwhile, the existing middle school portion  of the existing building would be demolished and the remaining elementary school portion would receive more renovations and fewer additions, with a focus on safety, repairing mechanical systems, and new ceilings and flooring. There is also an opportunity for grant funding, such as for sustainable heat and cooling systems, consultants said at the workshop.

Like the two debated options, the proposal includes roughly $10 million in renovations at the high school. The new plan also relocates an athletic field to the site of the current middle school; the loss of the filed was noted by those against the former new middle school plan. No students would need to be relocated during construction, consultants said, as middle school students can remain at the current middle school while the new one is built and much of the work at the elementary school can be done over summer breaks.


The school board and the Town Council debated some tweaks to the plan at Monday’s workshop, but support was evident.

“I’d like to move forward with what I think is a pretty positive feeling here,” said Councilor Tim Thompson. “Like we’ve (said) for months now: It’s going to take everybody on both sides of this issue working hard to get this proposal to a successful outcome. So, let’s move forward in a positive fashion.”

School board Chair Elizabeth Scifres echoed the sentiment.

“It feels like we’re coming together,” Scifres said. “I feel hopeful and I, too, want to move on in a positive way, in a partnership; a thoughtful, responsible partnership.”

Councilor Jeremy Gabrielson said he thinks the compromise proposal has the potential to pass by a large margin. A solution proposed to voters in November 2022, which would have increased taxes by over 22%, was strongly rejected, 3,817 votes to 2,337.

“My hope and goal coming out of the School Building Advisory Committee was not to get to a point where we had something that would pass by 51%, but to have a proposal that could pass at the election by a margin similar to the one that was defeated,” Gabrielson said. “I think this is a strong proposal and I think it has a good chance of doing that.”

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