Board approves repair plan for Brunswick schools

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BRUNSWICK — School Board members Wednesday unanimously adopted a multi-pronged approach to correcting near- and long-term problems with facilities.

The five-point plan, proposed by district officials last month, calls for an annual investment in repairs to existing buildings, while preparing a request for state school construction funds, and support for a municipal bond to renovate current schools.

Additionally, the School Department will make contingency plans with the town to place students in case they need to be moved from their current schools for any reason, and will determine what to do with the vacant Jordan Acres School.

The new plan is the result of three years of discussion and research into Brunswick’s school facilities by board members and staff.

Six board members voted for the plan. Board members Joy Prescott, Corinne Perreault and Janet Connors did not attend the meeting.

“I’m not jazzed with the idea that all we were able to get out of this was repairs,” board Member Rich Ellis said, adding that it did not address the town’s capacity issue.

He acknowledged that the department needs to take immediate action on several maintenance and repair issues in the town’s aging schools, and said he supported the decision in the context of a broader, long-term facilities plan.

A repair plan proposed by Facilities Director Paul Caron last month called for a $2.5 million annual investment in school buildings.

Caron said that $500,000 should be reserved to maintain Brunswick High School and Harriot Beecher Stowe Elementary School, the newest buildings, while $1 million should be directed to fix issues at Brunswick Junior High School and Coffin Elementary School. Another $1 million would be set aside in reserve to help pay for future projects. 

The plan approved Tuesday calls for staff to develop a long-term financial plan to fund the repairs. According to estimates provided by the department’s architects from Portland Design Team, basic repairs for the BJHS and Coffin could cost about $5 million.

On Tuesday, Caron said that that items the architects did not include – structural analysis and improvements to roofs at the two schools, a new playground, water and heating pipe repairs, and remediation of hazardous PCBs if doors and windows were replaced – could cost another $755,000.

Board Member Chris McCarthy said he supported the plan, but wanted to make sure it was embedded within a broader strategic vision for the school’s facilities.

“I don’t think we want to do short-term facilities planning without some vision of where we’re going to be 40 years from now, 20 years from now,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got to do that work, and that work isn’t done.”

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said adopting the plan is a necessary step in formulating a longer-term facilities plan.

“There’s no way you can do this correctly without doing that,” he said.

It seemed earlier this year that the board was aiming to construct a new elementary school to help ease the threat of overcrowding. But board members pulled back from that plan after voting to move the fifth grade to Brunswick Junior High School for the 2016 school year.

Administrators now estimate that it will be eight years, at the earliest, before Brunswick will be able to secure state funding for school construction.

Board Member Brenda Clough, while voting in support of the plan, said she was uncomfortable with the direction the board is taking.

“I’m going to support it because I know we have no more options,” Clough said. “We’ve waited too long to get to where we need to be.”

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.

Sidebar Elements

Election recount in District 5

BRUNSWICK — A ballot recount in the School Board District 5 election was scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 13, to decide the contest between incumbent James Grant and challenger Chris Watkinson. 

According to official results from the Nov. 4 election, Grant won the race by only seven votes, 557-550. 

Town Clerk Fran Smith said the recount would be held in Town Council Chambers at the Town Office at 9:30 a.m., after The Forecaster’s deadline.

— Peter McGuire