SAD 61 hires firm to study elementary school options

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

SAD 61 will continue to “kick the can down the road” — as Casco director Stan Buchanan put it Monday night — in regard to solving overcrowding and parking woes at Songo Locks School for at least another year.

Status quo prevails, once more.

But, a precise, clear answer or options will be forthcoming.

The School Board agreed to spend $9,000 to hire PDT Architects of Portland to conduct an elementary school facility study. PDT produced a Comprehensive Plan and Facility Space Needs Study in January 2000.

“The goal will be to revisit the physical condition of the various schools and how they may have changed over the last 15 years…” the company said. “One of the primary focuses will be to put an emphasis on educational adequacy at each school, physical condition and expected continued life cycle analysis of the schools.”

PDT will use new enrollment projections developed by Planning Decisions in January 2014 when considering various options for expanding schools or shifting students and grade levels between schools.

PDT will also use information developed by Fay, Spofford and Thorndike of Portland regarding parking options at Songo Locks.

Work begins on March 1, but PDT says it will take six weeks to complete the study, with a suggested completed date of April 15, at which time findings will be presented to the Facilities Committee, and then the full school board.

April 15 puts SAD 61 directors past the point of bringing a recommendation to taxpayers this upcoming fiscal year, 2015-16.

SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools Alan Smith suggested that the board “put on hold” budgeting any money targeted to address creation of additional parking at Songo Locks until the facility study is completed and the district decides what direction it will head in.

Casco Director Phil Shane, a member of the Facilities Committee, added that based on the number of hoops the Department of Environmental Protection would likely make SAD 61 jump through, he doubted the parking project could be completed this year, any way.

Something to consider

Although Adult and Community Ed Director Stephen McFarland certainly has his own opinion as to whether his program should remain at Crooked River or be moved elsewhere, he kept it to himself Monday night.

Instead, he tried to plead his case about the importance of stability and growing the Adult Ed program during a brief presentation to the school board in the Great Room at Lake Region Vocational Center.

“I don’t envy you,” said McFarland regarding directors’ future debate and decision whether to reopen Crooked River for elementary instruction or leave it as is — home to Special Ed services, Adult Ed and the alternative high school program. “You have to make a difficult decision.”

While McFarland said he and his dedicated staff are trying to develop the “best Adult Ed program possible,” he admitted uprooting it and relocating — possibly to Bridgton Memorial or the “White House,” a portable unit the district owns, which could be relocated on the high school grounds — would derail some of the momentum that has recently been created.

McFarland listed several program accomplishments achieved since September 2014 including new computer lab for student testing, developing partner relationships with the high school and utilizing the Vocational Center at night with a growing list of programs, and “building community around the Adult Ed program.”

“Among the entire staff, there are many program improvement ideas. We are ‘running on all cylinders’ and delivering on all fronts,” he said. “We are very confident that we will continue to reach new students and help everyone who comes to us reach their stated goals.”

McFarland emphasized the importance of adult education, which helps those achieve a high school diploma and thus increase their earning potential, while also opening doors to post-secondary education for others.

“We’ve graduated about 100 people over the last three years at Adult Ed,” he reported. “If we apply the average difference between a non-graduate and a graduate — $60,000 of lifetime benefits — to those 100 students, it is $6,000,000 in fiscal gain for our state and our community. I don’t think people are fully aware of, or think through the impact of Adult Ed programming. And, we do it at a very low cost per student.”

Just one important factor, McFarland hopes, school board members will strongly consider when deciding the future of Crooked River.


Songo Locks School

  • Update the physical conditions assessment of the building
  • Review expected enrollment through the year 2024
  • Update the educational program and space allocation spreadsheet identifying total building enrollment capacity
  • Development of schematic diagrams to show possible building expansions
  • Development of project cost estimates and budgets for possible building expansions including site utilities and parking.

Crooked River School

  • Update the physical conditions assessment of the building
  • Review expected enrollment through the year 2024
  • Prepare an educational program and space allocation spreadsheet to reload the building with elementary school aged kids for grades 3-4 or grades 3-5
  • Development of schematic diagrams to address required renovations, repairs or space alterations to accommodate the reopening of the facility as an elementary school
  • Estimates of probable project costs for required repairs, renovations or changes including a review of site utilities including building’s septic system
  • Development of schematic diagrams to show possible building expansions
  • Development of project cost estimates and budgets for possible building expansions including site utilities and parking.

Sebago Elementary School

  • Update the physical condition assessment
  • Develop an educational space program reflecting today’s program requirements
  • Review the projected enrollment study for Sebago Elementary through the year 2024
  • Prepare any diagrams related to altered space or usage at the school
  • Develop any project cost estimates related to work at the school.

Stevens Brook Elementary

  • Review expected enrollment through the year 2024
  • Prepare a space allocation program to determine enrollment capacity at the school using today’s program requirements
  • Explore the possibilities of addition/expansions that may result from project enrollment increases including expanded Pre-K program.
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