SAD 51 goes back to school with arts center on horizon

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CUMBERLAND — The most anticipated event in School Administrative District 51’s upcoming 2018-19 year is, perhaps, the planned January 2019 opening of its Greely Center for the Arts.

The 26,000-square-foot building, to seat 510 people, is being built at the rear of the school at 303 Main St., in an area between the school and its outdoor track. Detailed information on the project is posted at msad51.org.

Cumberland and North Yarmouth residents in November 2016 voted by a 2 percent margin, 4,149 to 3,953, to borrow as much as $9.5 million to build the center.

Although January has been pegged as the opening date, Superintendent Jeff Porter said Aug. 15 that he expects the project to be complete “well before” then.

With the exterior and site work largely complete, including floor-to-ceiling windows that grace the facility’s facade, efforts through late October will be primarily focused on the interior.

“The drywalling is just about done,” with audio-visual and technical elements to follow, Porter said. The seats will be one of the final additions.

SAD 51 officials will spend November and December going through the project’s “punch list” with the contractor.

“We look at every single thing,” the superintendent explained. “There’s a huge list of things, at the end of any project, that we go through. … There’ll be a lot of those small things going on to make sure the facility is completely finished, the way we want it to be finished.”

SAD 51 also plans to hire a manager for the arts center in October or November. “That person will be learning all of the technical parts of the building,” Porter said, adding that other people will be trained as well. “… We can’t just have the building done and welcome people in, if nobody knows how to use it.”

Greely administrators

Another key milestone for Greely High will be its new administrators. Chris Hoffman was tapped last month to become its interim principal for the year, replacing Dan McKeone, who ended nearly 20 years at the school June 30. Hoffman has taught social studies and science there since 2009.

Jayme Jones, assistant principal at Greely since 2013, left the school in late July to become assistant principal at Noble High School in North Berwick. The SAD 51 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously chose Don Gray – longtime assistant principal at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham – to replace her.

There were more than 40 applicants for the job, from which Gray rose to the top, Porter said.

“Don has a tremendous amount of experience,” he noted, referring to Gray’s more than 20 years at the SAD 75 school, about 15 of which he has spent as assistant principal, Porter said.

Gray will transition from one district to the other, starting the school year part time in SAD 75, and going to full time Sept. 10.

In his move, Gray follows Sally Loughlin, who stepped down as SAD 75’s assistant superintendent in 2010 to become SAD 51’s director of academic services.

Strategic plan

This school year will mark the beginning implementation of SAD 51’s 2018-21 strategic plan. The wellness component includes updates of the district’s homework and substance abuse policies, as well as student mental health.

Reallocated funds have been used to hire a risk assessment coordinator, a social worker who will “look at the entire district, and work with students who are exhibiting some sort of risky behaviors,” Porter said.

Another priority area is early childhood education, and the district will begin long-range planning for pre-kindergarten to grade 5 education. A group will convene later this year to map out SAD 51’s elementary education program, in terms of grade configurations and facilities.

“We’re out of space” at both the Mabel I. Wilson elementary school and, soon, the grade 4-5 portion of Greely Middle School, Porter said, “and that’s one of the things that will be a big focus for us. … We have to start making some long-range plans about how we’re going to address this.”

Ensuring that every student is ready for college and a career, increasing interventions for those who need it, and focusing on literacy, are other strategic planning elements. SAD 51 is also looking to hone 21st-century learning skills through field experiences for every student before graduation.

School begins Wednesday, Aug. 29, for grades 1-12, and Tuesday, Sept. 4, for kindergarten. Ninth grade orientation will occur Thursday, Aug. 23.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

School Administrative District 51’s Greely Center for the Arts, attached to Greely High School in Cumberland, is due to be complete by the end of the year and open in January.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.