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South Portland School Board to vote March 8 on high school renovation plans

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South Portland School Board to vote March 8 on high school renovation plans

SOUTH PORTLAND — Having scuttled plans to put a $41.9 million high school renovation bond out to voters in June, the School Board next month is scheduled to vote on whether they like the renovation plan or not.

The continued accreditation of the high school may be at stake.

The School Board met Feb. 8 and heard a presentation from the Secondary School Facilities Committee on the current design and funding plan for renovating and expanding South Portland High School.

The presentation was originally scheduled to take place Jan. 28 at a joint meeting of the School Board and City Council, but the board decided at an emergency workshop Jan. 26 to hold off, citing financial and economic issues.

"They looked at the preliminary budget implications and basically, the consensus was June 2010 didn't make sense for the referendum," Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin said.

If voters in June had approved the $41.9 million bond, the School Department would have had to absorb nearly $3 million into its budget in 2013 to pay for the project.

The Secondary Schools Facilities Committee has been working since 2004 to address the needs of South Portland's middle and high schools. In 2007, voters were asked to support a $56 million high school renovation proposal. It was defeated by a 3-1 margin.

The committee regrouped after that vote and worked on bringing the cost down. It eliminated a second gymnasium and an artificial turf field from the original proposal – two elements committee member Kathryn Germani said voters were skeptical about. Four classrooms were also eliminated.

Several green design elements have been added to the most recent proposal, and the committee is recommending the school seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Part of the reason the high school is being targeted for renovation is because it has several code and other issues the New England Association of Colleges and Schools wants addressed by 2013, before the school is re-accredited.

Godin said at the Feb. 8 meeting that a two-year report is expected by the accreditation board in the fall, and the School Board must show that it has approved a plan for renovating the high school.

At the March 8 meeting, the board is expected to vote on whether it approves of the proposed renovation plan. It may also discuss a referendum date.

"The board will need to decide at some point to recommend to the City Council when it should go to referendum," Godin said.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net