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RSU 1 voters approve Woolwich school

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RSU 1 voters approve Woolwich school

WOOLWICH — Voters across the five communities of Regional School Unit 1 rallied overwhelmingly Wednesday behind the proposal to build a new Woolwich Central School.

Superintendent of Schools William Shuttleworth said the referendum passed 984-218.  The votes were 260-47 in Bath, 66-5 in Arrowsic, 105-65 in Phippsburg, 88-31 in West Bath and 465-70 in Woolwich.

"This is an overwhelming referendum," an elated Shuttleworth said. "Particularly when you place this in hard economic times, when people are worried about every dollar, this shows you that this RSU is committed to kids."

The project, 10 years in planning, will cost $18.9 million, of which the state will fund $18.2 million. Maine High Performance Schools will cover more than $150,000 of the expense, while RSU 1 will pay about $567,000.

The school district's share will be divided according to the RSU's cost-sharing formula, which is based on student population, property valuation and community population. As a result, Bath, the largest of the five communities, will pay about half of the local cost. Woolwich will pay 16.8 percent, Phippsburg 17.4 percent, West Bath 12.5 percent and Arrowsic 3 percent.

The local share for each taxpayer in the district, amortized over 20 years, is $2.50 a year.

Construction of the pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school will begin in July and conclude in September 2012. During the work Woolwich students will be housed in the Huse School in Bath – the home of RSU 1's administrative offices – along with surrounding buildings, modules and the nearby Small School.

The current 32,000-square-foot school was built more than 50 years ago. Two additions – a grade three-to-five wing built in 1973 and the gym-cafeteria built in 1985 – will be preserved and incorporated into the new, nearly 67,000-square-foot structure.

Advocates of the school have said the benefits of the new school to RSU 1 will include reduced fuel costs. While Woolwich's current school costs more than $22,000 a year to heat, the new building is expected to cut that expense by about $5,000 through the use of wood chips.

State subsidy is also expected to increase. The school has about 300 students now, and its successor will be built for 375, a number Shuttleworth expects the facility to reach quickly. New schools attract new families to the area, he has said, and he estimates that RSU 1 will receive about $6,000 in state subsidy for each new child introduced to the unit.

The new school is expected to have a lifespan of 75 years.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.