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Community space considered in replacement for Scarborough school

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Community space considered in replacement for Scarborough school

SCARBOROUGH — A discussion between town councilors and Wentworth Building Committee members Wednesday highlighted the town's concerns that a new intermediate school may eliminate some of the spaces utilized by the town's community programs.

"We recognize there is a need to continue community services," Superintendent of Schools Jo Anne Sizemore said.

The discussion came after the School Board voted two weeks ago to support the building committee's recommendation to build a new school to replace the ailing Wentworth school. 

The town offers preschool and child-care programs at the Bessworth School, which is behind the Wentworth building and where the new school is proposed to be built.

"I hope this is the beginning of the conversation we can continue to have," Town Manager Tom Hall said. "It would be a shame to squander the few opportunities we have left on this campus."

School board members and councilors discussed the need to keep the total price of the new building low, while still providing as much space as possible. 

"I'm interested in seeing us move forward with the best educational building we can for the best price," said Councilor Michael Wood, who also sits on the Wentworth Building Committee. 

Wood stressed the importance of communicating with the public about plans for the new building. 

A 2006 referendum to replace the Wentworth and middle school buildings failed. It has been suggested the proposed cost was too high and there was poor communication about the project.

"I'm sensitive to the fact that the community at large is paying attention," Wood said. "Perception is a big piece of this."

School Board member Aymie Hardesty, who has been a vocal advocate for addressing air quality concerns at the existing school, said she would like to see a financially responsible, but community-oriented new building.

"It takes a village," she said. "I know we have to be fiscally conservative. I would like that. But if we're going to build a place, at least make it expandable for the future."

After the meeting, School Board Chairman Christopher Brownsey said it is important that the town be aware of some of the issues with the current Wentworth building, including that it has had very few updates for handicapped accessibility.

"The special education classroom is in the old girls' locker room," Brownsey said. 

He said it is likely a new building will be two stories tall instead of one. While elevators will have to be addressed in a multi-story building, Brownsey said two stories will cost less to heat and be more energy efficient.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net