South Portland residents sought to plan details of new high school

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The planning process for expanding and renovating South Portland High School is underway.

But the School Board is looking for residents were are interested in participating in planning the new school, which could open in the fall of 2015.

The School Board has already appointed a 25-member Building Committee, consisting of staff, town councilors, board members, students and community members.

School Board Chairman Ralph Baxter said that additional community members are needed for several subcommittees that will focus on specific aspects of the high school.

Subcommittees already identified by the School Department include energy efficiency, library/media center and technology, athletics, interior finishes, kitchen design, and communications.

Other subcommittees will be formed as needed.

Baxter said the Building Committee plans on having final designs by June. After that, the project will be put out to bid, and the district hopes to awards bids in November.

Baxter said if all goes well, builders could break ground on the three-year project in the spring of 2012.

“This is a great chance to get involved in the community,” Baxter said.

After several years of trying to convince residents that a new high school was needed, Baxter is looking forward to seeing the process finally move forward after voters approved a $41.5 million bond last year.

“I’m really excited,” Baxter said. “It’s really exciting to see so many people want to be involved in it.”

Baxter previously served on the building committee for the elementary school project. He said there are similarities between the two efforts, but noted there are more things to consider when building the high school.

Concept plans have been developed by the Secondary Schools Facility Committee over the course of several years. However, Baxter said the time commitment will not be as great for subcommittee members, who will meet approximately every other week.

Baxter said subcommittee members will be responsible for “all the little detail work that needs to happen.”

Baxter and Dick Matthews will represent the School Board on the Building Committee, while Councilors Alan Livingston and Rosemarie De Angelis will represent the Town Council.

The committee also includes at least two members of the Renew SPHS political action committee that helped promote the bond approved last November.

Former PAC member Justine Carlisle said she is looking forward to shifting into planning mode.

“I’m so excited to be going through the process after going through the campaign,” Carlisle said.

Former PAC member Jeff Selser said he hopes to be able to engage the community in the designing phase.

“We hope to recreate the energy we felt throughout the campaign,” Selser said. “The more voices we hear from the better the project will be.”

The building plan will try to address the health, safety and security concerns that have threatened the school’s accreditation. But it will also require stylistic decisions, such as colors and cosmetic designs.

Carlisle said throughout last fall’s campaign the PAC repeatedly pitched the renovation plan as an opportunity to create a building not only for high school students, but the community at large.

As such, she said she would like to see more community members get involved.

“We want to get the word out to the community to contact the School Department if they’re interested in being on a subcommittee,” she said. “As the architect explained, being a part of this process, you’ll walk in the building and see things you were a part of the decision making on.”

Anyone interested in volunteering on a subcommittee should contact Maria Sorenson at 871-0555 or SorensMa@spsd.org

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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