Back to school: SAD 75 starts work on new athletic fields

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TOPSHAM — Construction of sports fields for a new Mt. Ararat High School will be well underway when School Administrative District 75 opens its doors to students Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The SAD 75 Board of Director on Aug. 3 approved construction of new baseball and practice fields by Topsham-based Crooker Construction. The work was expected to begin this week, according to Superintendent Brad Smith.

Crooker was one of four bidders for the job, with a base bid of nearly $594,000. Construction is to be substantially complete by the middle of November. The fields will be built to the northeast of the existing high school, and east of neighboring Mt. Ararat Middle School.

The fields project is taking place now because the new high school will be built on the site of the existing school’s athletic fields, with an opening planned for fall 2020. It will allow the school to maintain access to a multipurpose field and baseball field while construction proceeds.

“This early start on the fields will give us an advantage of longer growing time,” Smith noted Aug. 1. “The sight of trucks and tractors are surely to raise some our anticipation of the new high school.”

SAD 75 will also have some changes in its special education program in the new school year.
Heidi O’Leary, who previously taught special education in the district, is returning as director of special education. She replaces longtime director Patrick Moore.

O’Leary, who grew up in the area and attended SAD 75 schools, served as special education director in Biddeford, as well as in Alternative Organization Structure 92, which includes Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

“We are fortunate to have Heidi join us,” Smith said. “Her experience, knowledge and skills will enable us to continue the strong programs of special education while moving us forward to face the challenges ahead. Her enthusiasm, dedication and commitment are commendable, and we welcome her back to MSAD No. 75.”

Cathy Curtis will become special education coordinator at Mt. Ararat Middle School, replacing Tanji Johnston. Curtis’ two decades working with special needs students includes time at Bowdoinham and Harpswell schools, and at the Woodside Elementary School in Topsham.

SAD 75 is also working to address $36,000 in lost state funding for its School-Based Health Center. Smith said he hopes legislative action will restore the lost revenue, which helps fund a nurse practitioner or Sweetser counselor to aid students with physical and social-emotional issues.

As the school year progresses, Smith said he wants SAD 75 to maintain its focus on providing a “respectful learning environment.”

“Fear has no place in education, it only inhibits our growth,” he explained. Likewise, intimidation and anxiety prevent us from reaching our potential. I will continue to keep this message in front of our students and those trusted to care for them.”

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

This diagram shows the proximity of soon-to-be-built baseball and practice fields in Topsham to Mt. Ararat Middle School.

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.