Topsham-area school board backs new Mt. Ararat High School

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TOPSHAM — A new Mt. Ararat High School is a big step closer to reality.

The School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors voted unanimously Nov. 19 to build a new school to replace the existing building, which is 42 years old.

The SAD 75 Building Committee has recommended putting the new building on the existing campus, according to Superintendent Brad Smith.

The panel also accepted an Educational Specifications document, spearheaded by Mt. Ararat High School Principal Donna Brunette, which reflects stakeholder input on the project.

The “new vs. renovation” analysis marks the fifth step in a 21-step, state-required process that will include two public straw votes, according to the district website. The first straw vote, and next step of the process, will be on the project location. A second straw vote, deciding the building concept, is the 12th stage.

Positive results from both votes will trigger a referendum within 12 months on whether to fund the project. Four approvals by the state Board of Education are also required.

John Hodge, Building Committee chairman, told the School Board people had concerns people at community meetings about students being moved into temporary classrooms while construction takes place.

The Building Committee has also recommended that students be kept together in the existing school until the new one is finished, Smith added.

Those recommendations have been presented to the Education Department. SAD 75 staff will meet with DOE officials in the coming weeks, according to Smith.

SAD 75 has applied since 1999 for state school construction funding, and the school ranked seventh in 2014 on a state construction funding list.

A recent draft facilities study by Portland-based architectural firm PDT, which SAD 75 hired to work on the project, concluded the high school should be rebuilt at the current site. The study determined the cost to renovate the school would exceed the cost of rebuilding.

The project’s Building Committee agreed, and unanimously supported the recommendation Oct. 7. Input the district received in a series of forums this fall leaned that way as well.

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

The School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors on Nov. 19 supported building a new Mt. Ararat High School on the current Topsham campus.

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.