Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district considers turf field, performing arts center

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CUMBERLAND — An artificial turf field and performing arts center will be subjects of a School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors workshop Monday, Jan. 5.

“There’s been a lot of interest, I think, in the community” around both projects, and committees have been tasked with looking into them, SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter said Dec. 23.

Representatives from both panels will attend the 7 p.m. workshop at Greely High School, where the School Board will look at general concept designs.

“It’s basically informational,” Porter said. “It’s just to see where the board would like to go, if anywhere, with both of those projects.”

The performing arts center could be attached to the high school, while the turf field would be laid over the high school’s existing field, the superintendent said.

SAD 51’s campus saw significant change in 2014, with Greely Middle School expanded to house fourth- and fifth-grade students displaced by the closure in June of North Yarmouth Memorial School.

The transition “went really well,” according to Porter, who became superintendent July 1. “Overall, staff, parents and kids settled in really nicely to the new schedule. We really had no glitches.”

He gave much of the credit to the transition committee that worked for about a year on the move, as well as the facilities and custodial staff.

“Really, everyone was ‘hands on deck,'” Porter said. “It’s been an amazing transition.”

The superintendent said in August that an access road into the middle school was widened to facilitate bus travel. New playground equipment for the fourth- and fifth-graders was installed, new parking spaces added, and trees were removed and replanted to make room for expanded parking.

The new sections were designed just for the new elementary grades. Some parents expressed concerns about the younger students mixing with the existing sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, but Porter has expressed confidence in the steps taken to keep the two age groups separate.

The two sets of students each have their own principal and guidance counselor, they have different drop-off, departure times and lunch times, and they ride different buses.

Porter said he is actually hearing now that staff would like to see students from both levels interacting a little bit.

“There’s been such a good effort to make sure they’ve been separated, that now people are like, ‘there are some opportunities here for mentoring,'” he said.

Porter also said he has heard some people miss the old North Yarmouth school, now owned by that town, which is determining the 1976 building’s future use.

“That was a school that was there for a long time,” he said. “It did have a different feel to it; it was a small building and a small school, 400 kids. … Those children have come into a school of 830 kids. … But I think people have made that transition.”

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

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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.