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Panel calls for $7 million in Rockland-area school additions

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland-area school board is being urged to approve a scaled back, $7 million option for renovating its high school and middle school.

And school officials projected the cost of a new or renovated and expanded elementary school in Owls Head at $9 million.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board is expected to vote Thursday evening on the recommendations of the board’s facilities committee for the high school and middle school. Plans are still being developed for the Owls Head Central School. No recommendation has been made on that project.

The board had been presented options from WBRC architects and engineers for the high school and middle school that could have cost $16.5 million.

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Board member Nancy Jeffers said everything called for in the more comprehensive plan was necessary for the school and middle school.

“We felt a more conservative first step was prudent this year. We are talking about phasing in the rest of these changes over the coming years,” Jeffers said.

The district has been in the midst of realigning its buildings as part of the Schools of the Future plan unveiled a year ago.

At Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, the committee’s recommendation is to add a wing on the school for four additional classrooms, and expand the kitchen and cafeteria. The projected cost is $4.1 million. The additional classrooms will allow sixth-graders to be educated in the middle school beginning next year.

At Oceanside High School in Rockland, the project will be limited to expanding the kitchen and cafeteria. The projected cost is $2.9 million.

Board member Donald Robishaw questioned the need for a larger kitchen and cafeteria, pointing out that there are far fewer students in the school (about 520) than when he went there in the 1970s, when more than 700 students were enrolled at the then Rockland District High School.

The administration replied that larger facilities are needed because there are fewer lunch periods than in the past.

The board is expected to schedule a referendum for early 2017 for residents in the five communities of RSU 13 to vote on whether to borrow the $7 million.

The board also is expected to decide whether to build a new elementary school on the grounds of the Owls Head Central School that would serve students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. This would result in the closure of the Gilford Butler School in neighboring South Thomaston.

Business Manager Peter Orne said the cost of a new 30,000-square-foot elementary school would be similar to that of renovating and expanding the existing building — about $9 million. But the latter option would require that the students be relocated for at least one school year.

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