Falmouth Middle School construction falls behind schedule

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FALMOUTH — The last School Board meeting before the academic year begins had a lot of handshakes and applause, but also an emphasis on unfinished construction.

Dan O’Shea, the School Department director of finance and operations, said the ongoing construction at the middle school likely won’t conclude on time.

“It’s tough to go over to the middle school and feel comfortable that they’re going to finish,” O’Shea said. “But it always looks the worst before they close up shop.”

He said the construction likely won’t finish on time.

“We’re probably running about a week behind even though the contract date for completion was next week, Wednesday or Thursday,” O’Shea said. “They had hoped to be done last week; that’s just not going to happen.”

He said a lot was done, including plumbing, sheet rock and cabinets, and they were “heading in the punch list items.”

“The hallway, which will be the last thing they get done with new tile is unfinished,” O’Shea worked. “So it’s difficult to look at.”

O’Shea said the middle school project isn’t the only construction at the schools.

“We’re also doing the stadium field restroom project,” O’Shea said. “That’s in full swing. Foundation’s poured, walls are up, trying to hit the target of Sept. 1. We’re probably not going to hit that. But it’ll be far enough along, so the construction will be contained, there will be safety access around that.

“We’ve also got other entrances, we’ll also be able to use the concessions as well. So it may be the first week in September by the time that’s fully complete.”

O’Shea also said that, while not in his official board report, he has concerns about the financial impact of charter schools for the coming year. He said five students will be out of district by choice this year: four to Baxter Academy in Portland and one to the Maine Connections Academy virtual charter school. 

The total cost to the department will be about $50,000.

“So if students leave us, the money that normally comes to Falmouth goes with the child,” O’Shea said. “So we pay that quarterly, it’s usually $8,000-$9,000 per year.”

He said there wasn’t as much impact last year, when only one Falmouth student attended Baxter. He also said school officials assumed charter school transfers would only affect districts with fewer opportunities than Falmouth, but that’s apparently not true.

“It’s difficult because you can’t force parents to make a decision any sooner than they want to,” O’Shea said. “So come budget time it would be sheer guesswork to put in a number. And any number we put in there as a potential expense is taking away from something we could fund otherwise. So now that I’ve seen an uptick, we just need to be more cautious next year as we build the budget.”

He added there are families that want to send their children to Falmouth schools and are willing to pay tuition to be incoming students.

“We’re running about $30,000-$40,000 for incoming tuition,” O’Shea said. “So right now it’s about a balance, pretty much a wash.”

In other business:

• Several new hires were unanimously approved, ranging from coaches to special education teachers, including Erica Mazzeo as the new curriculum director. Principal Janet Adams will also begin her first year at the helm of Falmouth Middle School.

• Elementary school nurse Sue Raatikainen was recognized for being named Maine’s School Nurse of the Year, and the Falmouth Little League was recognized for its achievements at the regional championship in Bristol, Connecticut.

• Board Chairman Andrew Kinley said high school enrollment has dropped to under 700 students. He said while it will have no effect this year, in 2015-2016 Falmouth sports could get bumped into Class B by the Maine Principals Association.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]