Quaker school plans 2015 move to Cumberland

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CUMBERLAND — The Planning Board granted major site plan approval Tuesday to the Friends School of Portland, which plans to open in a new, 15,000-square-foot building in Cumberland in 2015.

The project has received approval from the Maine Department of Transportation, and still needs support from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Town Planner Carla Nixon said Tuesday. The board granted approval subject to receipt of a DEP permit.

The Quaker school, which purchased 21 acres of property at 11 U.S. Route 1, near the Falmouth town line, now serves 91 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

It has leased space from the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on Mackworth Island in Falmouth since 2006, and could be in its new Cumberland location for the 2015-2016 school year, according to Head of School Jenny Rowe.

Rowe said in February that the school had been looking for a new site for nearly two years, and that it was “really lucky when Martha and Andy Soule were willing to sell us this 21 acres.”

The project had a sketch plan review with the Planning Board in December 2012. The Planning Board held a site walk on the property Dec. 7.

The school hopes to begin construction early this winter, with completion early in 2015, according to Nixon.

It hopes to seek bids next month for construction of an access road, Rowe said last week.

“Our intention is to begin school in September of 2015,” she explained. “So we’re hoping that the access road will (be built) in late January, and that we’ll begin building in June.”

The school’s lease on Mackworth expires in July 2015, Rowe said.

The Friends School is the only Quaker school in northern New England, Rowe said. It was a left a “very generous” bequest from one of the people who helped establish the school, and those funds helped the school buy the Cumberland land, while money for the building is coming from a capital campaign.

A second phase of the project would involve construction of a gym, “and we’ll have to do another campaign to raise money for that,” Rowe noted.

The new school will include solar gain and air ventilation to warm and cool the building, and photovoltaic panels are expected to generate enough electricity to sell back to the grid what the school uses, Rowe said previously.

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

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.