C.A. Snow School number five on state’s priority list

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — The decades old Charles A. Snow School here has made the Number 5 position on the Maine Department of Education’s “priority list” of those that are in line to receive construction funds.

The Maine DOE presented its ranking of the Pre-K through 12 school projects on March 9. The proposed “priority list” is the first rating of school construction projects since the 2004-2005 rating cycle, through which 22 schools were approved for renovation or construction.

“The list is a vitally important tool for us in understanding the scope of the needs in our schools,” Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said. “When resources become available, we’ll be able to address the most significant needs first.”
No more portable classrooms

A total of 71 construction applications were reviewed by the DOE, with only 22 making the “priority list.”

Commissioner Bowen, who is the one who will decide how many projects will be able to move forward, and the timing of those projects, said the priority list is “only the first step in a comprehensive process that includes prioritizing, determining solutions, designing, and building. Project costs will be estimated and based on those estimates,” Bowen said.

The oldest building in the 71 reviewed applications was built in 1861. Fourteen of the buildings were built in the 1970s or later. In all, there are 207 portable classrooms being used in the 71 schools, and in six of the schools, more than 40 percent of students are in portables.

“Big if” regarding funding

“We’re extremely happy and look forward to the actual project being able to be started in the next few years,” said SAD 72 Superintendent of Schools Gary MacDonald. “We were anxiously awaiting the ‘priority list’ being released at 2:30 p.m. last Wednesday. We were not surprised, as we thought we had an extremely competitive application. We’re quite excited. I’m also well aware of several other schools in the state that have equally compelling stories.”

“We haven’t been given a timeline yet, but, even if the state had the capacity to fund our project this spring, we would still be three to five years out, as to being in the new school and using it,” Supt. MacDonald said further. “That’s a huge ‘if’ — if the state will have the capacity to fund any of the projects on the list. I’m going to be making some calls to see if we can get a better sense of what monies might be available for construction projects.”

MacDonald credited those who have worked hard over the last three to four years “for the quality of the application we put in.” MacDonald singled out SAD 72 Facilities Director Dave Powers, Architect Dave Hart, Snow School Principal Jeannette Almy, Molly Ockett Middle School Principal Jay Robinson, Business Manager Maddie Bassett and the rest of the administrative staff, as well as former SAD 72 Supt. of Schools George Cunningham and the Building Committee he chaired and the citizens who served on it.

“We put together a comprehensive and well thought out application,” MacDonald said. “Now is the time we need to move forward and build a new school to replace that school.”

A new Snow School would be built on the same property as the Molly Ockett Middle School off Route 302.

The current Snow School, named for Charles A. Snow who served as superintendent of schools in Fryeburg from 1923 to 1948, sits at the corner of Portland and Pine Streets. The Superintendent’s Office, formerly known as the Annex building, was the original school established in 1903 when Districts #1 and #2 united. Then, in 1949, what is now called the C.A. Snow School was brought on to the property to alleviate overcrowding.

The state’s “priority list’ is based on a scoring system that assigns points to the level of need in a large number of areas, including: unsafe building and site conditions; program-related facility and system deficiencies; enrollment and overcrowding; and program and planning. The scoring is based entirely on need, not on fiscal impact or other criteria. The scoring was conducted by a Department of Education team over the past six months and included extensive site visits. Districts will have 60 days to analyze their scores and ask questions of the Department and may submit a formal administrative review request during that period. After the 60 days, the list is considered final.

“I believe the report ranking us Number 5 on the ‘priority list’ reflects the Snow School and its history and that it really needs to be replaced,” Supt. MacDonald said. “And, we’re looking forward to getting a final determination of our place on the list and if any funds will be available.”

“In our application, we indicated we’d be able to do away with all of the portable classrooms throughout the district,” said MacDonald. “As we move forward — and we’d be working with the state to plan for a new school on the Molly Ockett Middle School property — it reflects the needs of the district, currently, and also looks ahead for the next 30 years.”

“The state would be very involved, as they work with us, to help us put together the very best plan we could, in order to meet the needs of the district,” stated Supt. MacDonald.

Again, the superintendent praised the many individuals who worked so very hard to make the Snow School construction application as competitive as it could be.

“Given the amount of work everyone put in to this process — and the last three to four years they really ramped up — they spent long hours — it was very time consuming — and we scored on every aspect (considered by the DOE). It reflects the good work and the intensity of the work we did.  They (the state DOE) found Snow School has tremendous needs — especially safety concerns around children moving around the exterior of the building during bus pick up and drop off time, and also parent pick up, and that the parking area, particularly in the wintertime, has a lot of vehicle congestion as students are moving about.”

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