SAD 75 may delay referendum on new Topsham high school

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TOPSHAM — School Administrative District 75 has been hoping to have a November referendum on construction of a new Mt. Ararat High School, but the decision could get pushed into next year.

In the meantime, a plan that would swap the locations of the school and nearby sports fields is the leading option of the project Building Committee.

Faced with a variety of configurations of the existing school campus provided by Portland-based architectural firm PDT, the committee chose an option that would place the new school where the sports fields are – to one side of the school access road – and then put new fields where the school is, on the other side of the road.

A detailed visual is available at construction.link75.org.

The arrangement allows the Building Committee to meet its goal of keeping Mt. Ararat High students in place during construction of the new building, and then moving them to the new facility when it is complete, Chairman John Hodge said in an interview June 22.

Afterward, the 43-year-old school would be demolished, and the new fields would be built in its place. Fields at other locations would be used in the interim. Practice fields, intended to be renovated as part of the process, are one potential option, Hodge said.

While many factors have gone into the committee’s support for the option, Hodge said, “primarily we’re looking at the design of the building, and how it will accommodate all of the non-educational functions, as well as the educational needs of the facility.”

The building’s wings, as designed, would mean a greater amount of sunlight streaming into more classrooms than the current school’s configuration, he noted, adding that a pond on the site would complement the new building’s aesthetics, and lend itself to the school’s educational curriculum.

The November referendum window is closing, Hodge noted, “because of the complexity of all of these school projects, and the design, and the process you have to go through with the state Board of Education. … The last thing you want to do is rush anything, so we’ve got to make sure we do this right.”

A successful June 2017 referendum could lead to construction beginning that fall or the following spring, Hodge said.

The cost of the project is still being determined, and depends on the final design. SAD 75’s fundraising committee will address expenses for a new high school above and beyond what the state would pay.

The Building Committee will hold a community forum Aug. 3 to gather input on which amenities community members would like to see that the state would not fully fund, such as auxiliary gym space, outside stadium lighting, solar and geothermal power, a turf athletic field, and bleachers.

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

The preferred design of a new Mt. Ararat High School would place the school where sports fields currently sit.

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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.