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School Board Public Hearing Minutes 12/02/2015

December 2, 2015

There was a Public Hearing on Tuesday, December 2, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the gymnasium at Lake Region High School.

Board members present were:  Janice Barter, Board Chairperson, Debra Albert, Ben Bowditch, Allison Caulfield, Tom Hancock, Cindy LeBlanc, Joseph McMahon, Philip Shane, and Karla Swanson-Murphy.  Karen Eller was excused.  Stan Buchanan, Beth Chaplin, and Nina Stoddard were absent.

Administrators present were:  Kirsten Goff, Pat Hayden, Andrew Madura,
Madelyn Litz, Elisabeth Peavey, Rosie Schacht, Sherrie Small, Joshua Sturk, and Cheryl Turpin.

Wayne Rivet was also present.

Approximately 60 people were in attendance.

Superintendent Smith welcomed everyone to the Public Hearing.

Superintendent Smith mentioned that he would go through the process up until this point; Steve Blatt, the Architect for the project, would review the proposed building structure; and then there would be an opportunity for people to ask clarifying or related questions.

Songo Locks School is overcrowded and the Board has been working through a process to relieve the overcrowding issue.  The Board was presented with six options and the end result was this project which will relocate students in grades 3 – 5 to the Crooked River Building.

PDT Architects did a study and they recommended that Crooked River was in the best shape for an addition and renovations and it would move the District forward for the next 40 to 50 years.

Superintendent Smith visited each community and he kept hearing that everyone wants a long-term solution so the issue will not need to be revisited.

  • The Board voted to approve this project.
  • Four architectural firms were asked to come up with a proposal which would fit the needs of the District.  Steve Blatt Architectural presented a solid, concrete process.  The cost of the construction project will be $9.6 million.
  • Each community will pay a portion of the cost.  An estimate of the cost for a home worth $100,000 would be $32.00 for Bridgton, $23.00 - $24.00 for Casco and Naples, and $12.00 for Sebago.
  • If the referendum passes, the school would be ready by 2017.
  • Superintendent Smith clarified a misconception that the project has never been about closing Sebago Elementary School; Songo Locks is overcrowded.  It was originally built to hold 350 students and it is now 90 students over that number.
  • In looking at the projections that were done last year, the District was supposed to have 1,700 students.  Currently, there are 1,810 students.  The District is not shrinking as was expected.  The building is being built for the long-term and you do not want it to be overcrowded the day it opens.
  • The school will provide a lot of opportunities for other communities to use the facility.
  • This is a long-term educational opportunity that will enhance the District.  The current building needs to be renovated as the elevator does not meet standards, the bathrooms are not up to code along with the electrical systems and the heating system needs to be brought into compliance.  Also, the structural size of the building is not big enough.
Superintendent Smith hoped that people understand that the need is there and encouraged people to vote in favor of the project.

Presentation by Steve Blatt, Architect

Mr. Blatt shared the following information:

  • He developed the concept design for the school.  He has been working on the project since he was hired to put together a sensible, complex renovation for the school.
  • His firm has worked on a lot of renovations, additions, and new schools.
  • The school is on a nice site.  It is flat, sandy, and is plenty large enough.
  • Some things need to be updated but the site needs the least amount of work.
  • A separate bus loop will be added to allow a separate drop-off and visitor loop.
  • Additional parking spaces will be added.
  • There will be a paved, hard surface behind the school.
  • The Septic system and well are fine.
  • Much of the school is not energy efficient, so the school will be expanded in a wrap-around fashion for energy efficiency.
  • A wood pellet burner will be installed – an alternative fuel.
  • The front door will be more emphasized and a cross walk will be added in front of the school.
In figuring a project, approximately 20% is planned for site work, only 5% is needed for this project.
The gymnasium will remain the same.
A locker room off of the gym will be modified to make a small platform for a large gathering place.
  • The cafeteria is being reconfigured to add a wall of windows and an exit door with direct access out of the cafeteria.
  • The kitchen will be enlarged to 3 times its size.  A second serving window will be added so 2 lines can be served at one time.
  • There is a proposed auditorium which will include a stage and hold 150 people.  It will have a rigid sliding wall so it can be used for additional teaching space.  It will have a flat floor with a raised stage.
  • New public bathrooms will be added.
  • Classroom wings will be able to be locked off if there is a public event.
  • Existing stairways are not up to code so a third stairway is needed.
  • The current classrooms are just over 600 feet and the rooms do not have the right number of windows.  The State requirement is 800 square feet per classroom.  Not one of the classrooms meets the State requirement due to size, lighting, and the need for a sprinkler system.
  • The project will bring the school up to as good a school as it should be – not a fancy school.
  • There will be 3 wings with 5 classrooms each, one for each grade.  Each wing is considered a neighborhood with 5 classrooms, a special education classroom, and work room.  As there are more students on the second floor, the Library will be on the 2nd floor.  A health classroom and resource rooms will be on both floors in the middle.
  • The perimeter of the school needs to be insulated, better insulation will save money in the future.  
  • There will be increased security, the building will be handicapped accessible, and there will be more storage space.  

  • Planning began last August once the Board authorized going ahead with the project.
  • The Referendum vote is next week.
  • If the Referendum is approved, his firm will continue with the development of the design which will be completed by the end of February.
  • A formal cost estimate will be done.
  • The project will go out to bid at the end of July.
  • Construction will begin in August.
As the building will not be occupied, the project will go very quickly.

The school will be 50,000 square feet.  The school would cost $15 to $20 million if it was new.

Mr. Blatt was thanked for the presentation.

Superintendent Smith added the following:  

What is happening to the Alternative Education classroom, Special Education Office and Adult Education currently housed at Crooked River?

The White House will be renovated to move the Alternative Education program to the high school where it will be more manageable.  Some Adult Education classes will be held in the White House and Special Education will be spread throughout the District.

Seventeen years ago, the Stevens Brook Elementary School project was done.  The cost was $7.3 million for approximately the same number of students.

The floor was opened for questions.

On February 3, 2013, there was a proposal to reopen Crooked River for grades 4 and 5 for a cost of $468,914.  Adult Education was going to be moved back to the White House.  There was a revised review and the cost increased to $557,315.  

What happens to Songo Locks School students for the 2 years until the building is ready?

We are living through it this year and will need to for one more year.  A small portable was added this year.

The Board was thanked for their efforts on the project.  Concern was expressed for the cost of the construction project.  The $9.6 million project will really cost $13 million once interest is added over a 20 year period.  The cost should be represented correctly.

For a person in Sebago with the cost of a home worth $100,000, the tax increase would be $12.00.  In reviewing the numbers, it was determined that the cost would be $25.45.  

Superintendent Smith responded that he had received the numbers from the Town Manager.

You pay now or you pay later and the cost will be more later.  You cannot borrow money for free.  This is a sound project and the project should be approved.

It was mentioned that Mr. Blatt had met with staff and come up with a list of dream items.  Mr. Blatt clarified that he did not say that and he had met with the Special Services Director, the elementary administrators, and Central Office administrators.  

A list of items that were included in the project was read.  Mrs. Barter clarified that it was not a wish list.  That is what is included in the proposal.  Most of the cost is in bringing the building up to compliance or up to the recommended class size.  Currently the classrooms are odd shaped and have accordion walls between the classrooms.  The school will be rebuilt to meet today’s standards.

The school is 30 years old.  Many things are not necessary.  We are doing a major remodel of the school which was never closed.  We don’t have to renovate everything.

A taxpayer shared their concern for the increase in taxes from the project along with the increasing school budget.  The cost of the project is too much.  

The Board doesn’t have a proposed budget increase.  What happens to the programs in the schools when the construction project is included in the budget?

Superintendent Smith responded that we are just starting the 2016-17 budget process.  

When the school opens in 2017, there is not a clear definitive answer that the Sebago Elementary School will not be closing.  Special Education services are being moved around the District.  The population in Sebago is still large enough to keep the school open.  Sebago needs a definitive answer so it will not deter future families from moving to Sebago.

Superintendent Smith responded that there has never been any discussion about closing Sebago Elementary School since he has been here.  Special services are determined by need.  Some services cannot be met at Sebago so students are educated at the other elementary schools.

Crooked River was closed for consolidation purposes to save money and Songo Locks School is now not adequate.  Has there been any consideration of having two large elementary schools, one located on the Naples/Sebago line and the other in Bridgton?

Superintendent Smith responded that from the perspective of taxation, when looking at the level of maintenance to the current buildings and how well they have been taken care of, there is no sense in taking on a bigger project.  Building a new school would be cost prohibitive.

There are multiple issues throughout the District.  The Facilities Committee has to look at all the issues.  The buildings are aging and things have to get done.  This project will take care of the elementary issue for 40 years.

Is it possible to add another wing onto Songo Locks School?  

The site is too stressed at the current time.  There is only one driveway entrance and exit; one gym; one cafeteria; and the gym is used full-time.  Another wing would compound the issues.

Janice Barter shared that it is expensive to add an additional driveway at Songo Locks School.  It is more cost effective to use the money for educational space.  The Board will address the driveway issue once the students have moved to Crooked River.

The White House building has been taken care of extremely well.  It only needs minor renovations so that the students don’t feel like they are in an old building.  The Alternative Education students were supposed to move back to the high school at some point.  Some adult education services will be housed in the White House also.  The Adult Education program wants to be located in Bridgton area where there are more resources.  They are currently looking for an appropriate site.  

There was a request to see the Long-Term Facilities Plan.  Taxpayers need to see the plan so they can buy into it.  The students all need the same educational opportunities.   There needs to be some kind of a group from all the towns to be sure there is a clear path.  

The vote is a week away.  We need to look toward the future for our children.  If we wait the cost will be more in the end.   

The project is too expensive, cannot support it.

The recent enrollment projections were not accurate.  Have they been looked at again and corrected?

The projections used were based from prior information.  The Superintendent was not confident in what was projected a year ago.   

Crooked River should have never been closed.  $300,000 for an auditorium is too expensive.  Some areas can be cut.

Look at previous quotes, get the kids out of Songo Locks next year.  Kids have a lot less at Sebago and they produce some of the highest achieving students in the District.  There is a better solution that is more cost-effective.

It’s the teachers that help the students learn, it is not the shape of the room.

Crooked River is the solution.  Hope the communities will support the project and start working towards the solution for our kids.

Repurpose the school and do the renovations for $500,000.  

The District has been through a lot in the last 10 years.  The EPS formula reduced $60 million dollars from the budget; reorganization closed Crooked River so we could be a stand-alone District; the high school renovation and addition was done and the high school was one of the 10 lowest performing schools in the State; through all these hardships, Sebago has remained open with four different Superintendents and there has not been an uprising from the other towns to close Sebago.  

Once students from Songo Locks School are transferred to Crooked River, there will be room for an additional 90 students at the school.  Why are we building the school so big?

Superintendent Smith responded that the building is being built for anticipated growth.

Sebago Elementary School is a 150 year old school with a portable that was supposed to last for 10 years.  Why is one of the newest schools needing the renovations?

The school was not built for sustainability.  It needs to be completely renovated.

Will there be any issues with asbestos or PCBs?

Asbestos is not an issue and the windows will all be replaced.

$350,000 for the auditorium.  Did you consider dropping that piece?

The Committee did talk about that.  Crooked River is used for a lot of professional development and other opportunities.  

Is $60,000 needed for ball fields.

There is sand under the fields, you cannot grow grass as it cannot hold water.

The construction project in Bridgton was different.  The school needed to be closed for health reasons.  Sebago supported closing and rebuilding the school.
The towns of Bridgton and Sebago will not be benefited from the Crooked River project, they should not be burdened with the taxes.

If Sebago’s school was closed, wouldn’t there be an increase in the cost of transportation?  

The seasonal tax payers pick up a lot of the District’s taxes.  We should be thankful for them.

Phil Shane, a Casco Board member, commented that he does not want to close the Sebago school.  He wants to invest in the education of the students in Casco and Naples.  Songo Locks School is 1/3 the size of the high school and there are almost as many students at that school.  It is a big investment for our student’s future.   The renovations and additions will last the District for years.

What about repurposing the school for $500,000.

Mr. Shane commented that all the specialty things you need in a school has changed his mind.  The school had 4 portables in the back of the school to house 3 grades when it was originally opened.  

The meeting adjourned at 9:09 p.m.


                                                                                 Date Approved