South Portland High School renovation en route to November bids

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The committee developing a plan for renovating South Portland High School is expected to seek bids for the estimated $41.5 million project next month.

A final public comment session was scheduled Thursday night, Oct. 13, at the school, with discussion of interior plans for the cafeteria, the outline for green building certification, a plan for the renovated cafeteria and accompanying design sketches.

After this last session, the Building Committee will integrate public feedback into the plan and send the project out to bid in November.

The high school plan, approved in a referendum vote last year, calls for demolition of the school annex, which will be rebuilt so that it connects the school in a circular pattern that will create a courtyard and natural light well.

The original school building, at the main entrance near the administrative offices, will be kept and renovated, as will Beal Gym and the South Portland Auditorium. The school is expected to grow by 50 percent, from about 200,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet.

It will include a “Learning Commons” – a new take on a library, promised to be “a working environment for collaborative learning, not a quiet space for archiving books,” according to a recent committee document.

It also would include rooms where small groups can meet privately to work on projects and study, a space for presentations and enough structural flexibility – think movable furniture – for many groups to meet and work at once. The committee has also floated creation of a “Red Riot Cafe,” where students would be able to buy coffee and small food items and meet in a casual setting.

The cafeteria plan includes floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the football fields. The room will be divisible, allowing for three concurrent uses at any one time. It will also be connected by way of a “green room” to a 164-seat lecture room designed for educational and community use.

The committee hopes the school renovation and construction will be complete by the 2015-2016 school year and will certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The plan includes cost- and energy-saving measures such as high-efficiency natural gas boilers, and  light shelves and light traps that should reduce the need for artificial lighting.

Green construction “proves this project to be a safe, healthy, warm, bright and inviting teaching facility for our students and community for years to come,” Keith Emerson, the panel’s chairman for green design and energy efficiency, said in an email.

The design, by Harriman architects and engineers of Auburn and Portland, is expected to earn LEED Silver status.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-366a ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

Sidebar Elements

A design sketch of the renovated South Portland High School cafeteria. Nautical, natural forms inspire the design for much of the renovation at the high school.

A design sketch for the new “Learning Commons” at South Portland High School. Such areas are a new concept for schools, replacing the traditional library with flexible space that allows group study, quiet work and use of interactive and technological resources.