SAD 75 high school project gets state board OK

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TOPSHAM — A new School Administrative District 75 high school received unanimous approval Wednesday from the state Board of Education, and now is expected to go to a district referendum.

Superintendent of Schools Brad Smith, after the state board meeting in Augusta, said he would recommend to the SAD 75 Board of Directors at its Thursday, Jan. 12, meeting that a referendum be held March 7.

The vote in Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham would be preceded by a public hearing Feb. 15.

“The whole project has to get (the state Education Board’s) blessing to go forward,” Smith explained. “… We can’t go to referendum without state board approval.”

Wednesday’s vote was the latest in a series of milestones for the school construction project. District residentsvoted 85-0 in the first of two show-of-hands straw polls last Jan. 21 – the sixth step in a 21-part, state-mandated process – in favor of building the new school on the  Eagles Way campus, where Mt. Ararat High School is located.

A second straw poll, composed of two questions and marking the 12th step, was held last month.

The first question asked voters to approve the new school – which would cost $60 million – including $6.2 million in locally funded items above and beyond what the state will pay. That question – which did not include a turf field – passed 138-5.

The second question included a turf field – a $649,000 local option that raises the total cost to $60.7 million. That option passed 111-28.

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If approved in March, the replacement for the 43-year-old Mt. Ararat High School could open in fall 2020.

The new building would be constructed on the school’s sports fields. The high school would be demolished, and the fields rebuilt at the site of the former school by 2021.

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

The state Board of Education approved School Administrative District 75’s proposed new Mt. Ararat High School on Wednesday. Shown here is a recent show-of-hands local vote on elements of the project.

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.