New Brunswick elementary school back on the table

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BRUNSWICK — First, it was going to be two school renovations.

Now, it’s looking like the town may be asked to build a new elementary school, and do minor renovations at Brunswick Junior High School.

In the continuing effort to come up with a solution for fixing two aging schools, the School Board on Wednesday asked its architect for updated cost estimates for constructing a new elementary school on the site of the Jordan Acres School, and repairing the junior high.

The board also requested updated numbers for how much a more substantial renovation of Coffin Elementary School would cost.

The board had originally recommended a more than $12 million repair plan for the elementary and junior high schools. That proposal was rejected by the Town Council.

On Wednesday, several board members stressed the importance of moving forward quickly, starting with limiting the number of options.

Board member Rich Ellis warned that “opening up Pandora’s box, with dozens of options … would be a disastrous (route) to go down.”

Instead, they asked Lyndon Keck, of PDT Architects, to update the cost projections for a new elementary school on the site of the old Jordan Acres school, an option they’d previously explored before deciding to go with the $12 million repair plan.

Jordan Acres was closed in 2011 after a ceiling beam cracked due to an inadequately designed connection. When the board presented plans to replace it with a new elementary school in 2014, it was widely criticized by the public.

The School Department, according to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski, still has $21,000 in its retainer with PDT. Keck on Wednesday estimated that just updating the cost projections would cost between $2,000 and $5,000.

The board is aiming to put a bond for the new school project on the ballot in June or November 2016. When it looked at the cost of building a new elementary school at Jordan Acres last year, the estimate was around $26 million.

Board member Sarah Singer advocated for the November goal, stressing the importance of doing community outreach before the vote.

“We do not want to be in a situation where this goes to bond, and fails,” she said.

But she also reiterated the importance of getting the plans moving quickly. During the correspondence portion of Wednesday night’s meeting, she said she’d heard from a parent of a student at Coffin whose classroom was infested with hornets.

That class had to be moved to the music room, which bumped out music classes.

Perzanoski said the nest had since been removed. “The exterminators said they’d never seen anything like it,” he said.

“This is why we need to build extra space into schools,” Singer said.

While answering questions from the board, Keck estimated he could supply new numbers in the next few weeks.

At one point, board member Brenda Clough asked why he appeared nervous.

“Well … we can draw a lot faster than you can make decisions,” he replied.

This drew laughs from the board members.

“You could chisel faster,” Chairman William Thompson said.

Updated Oct. 15: The ceiling beam at Jordan Acres cracked because of an inadequately designed connection.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Jordan Acres elementary closed in 2011 after a ceiling beam cracked.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.