SAD 61 considering elementary school building options

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

A few years ago, the idea of “repurposing” Crooked River Elementary School was an attempt to trim costs as SAD 61 faced yearly cuts in state aid.

Today, the school board may be targeting the Route 11 facility to once again house elementary-age students.

PDT Architects recently turned over a study of SAD 61 elementary buildings, which resulted in recommending four possible options of how the school system could address space needs and improve educational services for the future.

Lyndon Keck, a senior principal for PDT, presented a variety of changes that have occurred since the company filed a comprehensive facility needs study in 2000. They include:

• K-5 enrollment has decreased from 1,013 students in 1999 to 884 students inn 2014, a 13% drop. Songo Locks population is up from 407 to 478, primarily the result of closing Crooked River School. Despite the addition of a portable unit, space is a problem there.

Meanwhile, Sebago Elementary’s enrollment has dropped from 135 students in 1999 to today’s population of 86. A study by Planning Decisions pegs enrollment to continue to slide, 77 by 2023.

• Crooked River Elementary — which presently houses Adult Ed, an alternative high school program and regional offices for special services such as special education and psychologists — is now 30 years old. Any renovation or construction will also require significant updates within the building.

• A trend across Maine and the nation is to offer a Pre-K program — a half-day program with morning and afternoon sessions. It is estimated that to accommodate Pre-K for Naples, Casco and Sebago (estimated 110 students or 55 students at any one time), Songo Locks would need four Pre-K rooms.

PDT considered the following as options were developed: the amount of acreage available; the ability to expand a building in the future; overall size and efficiency of any particular option; and age of the building and expected long-term life cycle usage.

Keck said the new study considered the closure of Sebago Elementary, with a third of the students moved to Stevens Brook and two-thirds enrolled at Songo Locks and Crooked River.

Four building options were developed:

Option 1: Expand Crooked River (which has more acreage available for new construction, compared to the Songo Locks site) by 4,165 square feet; rearrange the first and second floors to provide larger classrooms resulting in grade level clusters with individual study areas and project support. Additional building space would be created to house the library, along with art and music rooms. Grade 4 on first floor; Grade 5 on second floor. Site work and new septic. Capacity increases to 250 students to serve Grades 4-5 (at today’s figures, the school would house 153 students, 61% of capacity). Songo Lock’s student population would drop to 325. Estimated project cost: $4,496,446.

Option 2: Expand Crooked River by adding 13,352 square feet and serve Grades 3, 4 and 5. Grade 3 on first floor; new addition to second floor to include five new fourth grade classrooms; Grade 5 also upstairs. Based on 2014 enrollment numbers, CRES would house 217 students (building capacity would be 313), while Songo Locks falls to 261. Estimated project cost: $6,809,270.

Option 3: Expand Songo Locks with new additions totaling 22,400 square feet, increasing student capacity to 538. By today’s numbers, the building would house 478 students, leaving 60 unfilled seats, which could accommodate a Pre-K program.

Under this scenario, Crooked River is not used for K-5 and Sebago Elementary remains open. Three new pods would be constructed — four new classrooms added to the right side of the building, off from the current kindergarten spaces; addition of eight classrooms (four on the first floor and four on the second floor) to the rear of the school; and six classrooms and a music space behind the gymnasium. Estimated project cost: $8,000,060.

Option 4: Expand Crooked River by 4,165 square feet, serving Grades 4-5. Capacity: 250. Close Sebago Elementary, send students to SBES and Songo Locks.

PDT recommends Option 1 or 4 as first choices, and Option 2 as a second choice. PDT is leery about “building out” the Songo Locks site. In regards to Sebago Elementary, “As a school serving less than 100 students, it becomes much more inefficient and more expensive to operate and maintain. PDT understands the importance of elementary schools to the social culture of small villages and towns. We acknowledge that closing Sebago Elementary would certainly be a difficult decision for the MSAD 61 Board of Directors and for the residents of Sebago.”

Directors will hold a board workshop this Monday, June 22, at 7 p.m. in the Lake Region High School library to discuss building options and possibly take a straw poll as to the “direction” SAD 61 will pursue.

The workshop is open to the public. If space is an issue, the meeting will be moved to the cafeteria.

Superintendent of Schools Al Smith said whichever direction the school board heads in regarding building options, he encouraged them to consider educational needs of students, as well as being fiscally responsible to taxpayers.

He added that discussion might start in favor of one option, but could change with directors deciding another option might be the better fit long-term for SAD 61.

To keep the public informed as they move toward a formal proposal, district officials will post updates and reports on the SAD 61 website, as well as hold community forums once a “plan” is finalized.

 

 

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