RSU 1 weighs rebuilding or renovation of Bath high school

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BATH — Should Morse High School be renovated or replaced?

That is a key question facing Regional School Unit 1. Its 85-year-old high school ranks 11th on the latest state funding list, four slots down from Mt. Ararat High School in nearby Topsham, and both schools have been approved for funding.

RSU 1 has formed a nine-person building committee, composed of three members each from the central office, School Board, and community, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said Dec. 3. He called the group a “kickoff committee” before additional panels are formed to provide additional community participation.

RSU 1 Facilities Director David Richards on Wednesday listed some major issues in the building:

• Steam boilers from 1987 that are nearly at the end of their 30-year lives.

• A shortage of good dropoff and pickup areas outside the school for students.

• Accessibility challenges.

• And bricks that wick moisture from outside to inside, leading to calcium deposits and cracks around windows.

The building committee sent out requests for proposals from engineering and architectural firms, and last month interviewed four. It selected Lavallee Brensinger of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Charlestown, Massachusetts.

A contract with Lavallee is being developed, and the School Board is expected to hire the firm at its Dec. 15 meeting.

“The initial contract will be to do a ‘new-versus-renovation’ analysis,” which will involve a comprehensive study of the current facility and a recommendation on which direction to take, Manuel said.

The district will hold public meetings to share the firm’s report and hear input from community members on the future of the school.

The project comprises a 21-step major capital school construction process; RSU 1 is at the fourth step, selecting the firm, and the analysis guiding whether to renovate or rebuild the school is No. 5, Manuel said.

A local referendum, following the state Board of Education’s approval of the project concept, would be No. 13. Bonding, construction and a project audit comprise the final three steps.

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

Sidebar Elements


David Richards, left, the Regional School Unit 1 facilities director, and Morse High School Principal John Pinkerton show off two 1987 steam boilers in the basement of the Bath school that are nearly at the end of their 30-year lives.

Morse High School, the oldest part of which was built in 1929, is high on a state funding list for rebuilding or renovation.

A window inside Morse High School Principal John Pinkerton’s office, where bricks wicking moisture from outside have led to calcium deposits and cracks.

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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.