Superintendent Smith explains why Crooked River project a necessity

SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools Al Smith

By Alan Smith

SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools

For me, and I’m sure for many, it is imperative to be able to answer the question of “Why” prior to moving forward with any educational practice or project. It is equally as important to answer the question of, “How will this affect or benefit our kids?”

The educational needs and reasons for an elementary grades 3-5 Crooked River School project have not changed. The original Songo Locks Elementary School was built with 28 classrooms to support 335 students. Current educational mandates and Special Education needs have changed so much in 25 years that 14 of the 28 classrooms are now being used to accommodate these additional requirements. Thus, only 14 of the main building classrooms are available to support today’s student population of approximately 430 students.

In 2010, a six-classroom modular was added and attached to the main building. In 2016, a two-classroom portable was placed on the Songo Locks Elementary School campus. In the summer of 2017, another five-room portable was added to the campus. Thus, in an effort to accommodate student educational needs during the past eight years, we now have 13 modular/portable classrooms. The portables do create some educational and safety concerns, as well as an annual cost of over $100,000 dollars a year. In addition, these portables are not permanent structures. Let’s also not forget that in the very near future, pre-K will be mandated by the State to be a part of our children’s educational opportunities.

As hard as our staff works to maintain a wonderful, clean and supportive environment, over time the additional student numbers have played, and will continue to play, a significant role on greater than normal wear and tear of the building.

In working with architect Steve Blatt, the Crooked River (CR) Building Subcommittee was informed that the cost of similar construction projects have been much higher than expected. This is due to labor shortages, increased wages, greater cost of materials and a more robust economy. The committee was informed that materials have increased as much as 30%. Due to numerous construction projects, available companies can now be more selective about the projects they wish to bid.

The CR Committee wanted to make certain all possible options were reviewed. Thus, they asked Mr. Blatt to revisit the project and provide options to reduce the cost of the project while not compromising the educational space needed.

The CR Committee and Mr. Blatt discussed many ideas. Ultimately, it was decided the project would need to be redesigned if any significant saving could be realized when compared to the increased estimate of construction cost of $1.5 million from the prior project proposed in 2016.

Some of the adjustments that have been incorporated into the redesign project to reduce cost while not impacting educational spaces are as follows:

  • Installing a more advanced, high-tech, efficient heating system;
  • Retain and repurpose more of the current interior of the existing building as opposed to completely gutting the complete interior;
  • Reducing new construction square footage;
  • Installing insulation from the inside for the current exterior walls that will no longer have new construction around them;
  • Rebuild the existing elevator as opposed to installing a new elevator;
  • Removing as much new construction of open non-educational space as possible;
  • Placing the library in another area of the current CR building as opposed to adding new building square footage for the library;
  • Reconfiguring the hall and stair spaces;
  • Using a different configuration for the addition of regular and special education classrooms;
  • Using different exterior materials for the new construction;
  • Making minor changes to the front entrance;
  • Changing the bathroom configuration;
  • Not renovating the fields;
  • The potential of partnering with a third-party investor to install solar energy, which would also be used for the students educationally.

The cost of this redesigned project would be $8,975,000. The SAD 61 School Board would ask the voters to approve the use of $1,000,000 of capital reserve monies for this project. This amount would come from monies approved by the voters last year and placed in the capital/contingency reserves. This would decrease the final bonding cost of the CR project to $7,975,000.

The cost of the bond would break down to approximately $27 for each $100,000 of home evaluation for Bridgton, Casco and Naples residents. This equates to approximately $2 per month. The bond would be for 20 years. The bond costs, not unlike your home mortgage, would slightly decrease over the bond timeframe and wouldn’t start until the project was complete. The estimated time for completion would be two years.

Currently, the district has two debts that will be paid off prior to the beginning of the CR debt. These projects are the Lake Region Middle School addition with athletic fields and the Stevens Brook Elementary School. These projects combined have an annual debt of $539,159. The annual cost to lease and maintain the two newest portables is over $100,000. The combined annual debt that would retire prior to incurring the new debt for the Crooked River Elementary School project is approximately $639,159. The estimated new debt for this project is $659,533. As you can see, the retired debt and new debt are an offset.

The CR Committee was hoping to bring the CR building plan to the School Board for approval in time for the Nov. 6 ballot. However, there are two major reasons the CR Building Committee has decided a vote on Nov. 6 is not possible:

  • The committee can’t comfortably guarantee that all of the necessary work required for a Nov. 6 vote can be accomplished within the legal timeframe.
  • The committee wants to be certain that enough time is available to meet with, inform and answer any questions the public has regarding the project.

Therefore, the CR Committee has tentatively decided to hold the referendum on March 19, 2019.

Through this project, a long-term solution (30-plus years) for a continuing issue would be realized for Songo Locks Elementary School.

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