Informal vote backs building new Bath high school

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BATH — A show of hands at a public forum Wednesday indicated overwhelming support for building a new Morse High School.

More than 50 people attended the meeting at the school’s Montgomery Theater.

The vote followed a study this summer that determined the existing High Street school is not suitable for renovation or expansion.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors, discussing the matter Sept. 28, leaned toward that conclusion, too. The panel will take an official vote Oct. 26. After that, there will be a nonbinding community straw vote for either renovation or a new school at a specified site, depending on the School Board’s proposal.

Ron Lamarre of Lavallee Brensinger Architects of Manchester, New Hampshire, which RSU 1 hired to provide architectural and engineering services for the project, presented his firm’s findings at Wednesday’s meeting.

A study of the late 1920s school and the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, prepared by Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, a South Portland engineering company, found “the existing site … unsuitable due to the limits on the physical area available for expansion of the school resulting from sheer lack of land.”

The study noted that Morse’s footprint is about 124,000 square feet, while the technical center is nearly 43,000 square feet, for a total of about 167,000 square feet. But the study determined that the two facilities need more than 200,000 square feet.

For Morse to have the land it needs, several surrounding contiguous properties would have to be purchased, and not all the owners are interested in selling, Lamarre noted.

The RSU has been exploring sites near Bath Middle School and at Wing Farm Park.

New school construction could take two years, while renovation could take four or five, and be less economical, Lamarre noted. If a new school is built, he said, parts of the original building, like a wall of signatures, could be incorporated into the new design.

Completion of the new school could be in 2019 or 2020, Lamarre said.

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

A show of hands at a Bath public forum Wednesday showed strong support for Morse High School to be rebuilt in a new location.

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.