Topsham, Harpswell go back to school with recommendation to replace Mt. Ararat High School

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TOPSHAM — One of the key items School Administrative District 75 expects to address in the upcoming school year is whether to renovate or replace Mt. Ararat High School.

Meanwhile, school starts Aug. 31, with several new faces among the administrative staff.

A draft facilities study concluded the high school should be rebuilt on its current site, SAD 75 Superintendent Brad Smith said Aug. 20. The district has not made a decision, and its Building Committee will have further discussions Sept. 16.

The state Education Department will also weigh in on the matter.

“In the meantime, we’ll start looking at creative ways” to build a new school on the current site, Smith said, “one of which could involve (portable classrooms). Another is looking at our ability and the capacity to house students in existing (district) buildings.”

Portland-based architectural firm PDT has determined the cost to renovate the school will exceed rebuilding the school, the superintendent added.

SAD 75 has applied for state school construction funding since 1999, and the building ranked seventh last year on a state construction funding list. The existing two-story building, constructed with an “open concept” in 1973, has been called a “school with no walls.”

Forums allowing SAD 75 citizens to offer input and ask questions will be held at Bowdoin Central School on Sept. 17, Harpswell Community School on Sept. 22, Bowdoinham Community School on Sept. 23, and Mt. Ararat High School Sept. 30. They will run from 6-7:30 p.m.

Concept design is expected to take 18-24 months, and the project will likely not go to voters before November 2016 or June 2017.

In the meantime, the district this year has several new administrators.

Ryan Keith is the new principal at Bowdoin Central School, replacing recently retired George Jenkins. Megan Hayes-Teague has become assistant principal at Mt. Ararat Middle School, and with the departure of Principal Bill Zima, she will also fill that role in an interim capacity until a permanent principal is found.

Amy Hall is elementary special education coordinator, having previously been a response to intervention teacher and assistant principal at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham. Hall replaces Jenn Nucci.

Pam Ferrer, the district’s food service director, is moving, so her position will also have to be filled.

Also on tap for the upcoming school year is SAD 75’s implementation of “Envision,” a new kindergarten through fifth-grade math program, as well as continued work toward proficiency-based education, Smith said. The Response to Intervention program will be expanded to the middle and high school grades, with a teacher at the high school designated for that purpose.

The district is also continuing to increase awareness about the importance of good attendance, Smith said, noting that chronic absences increased this past year.

“We really want to try to work with the parents of those kids and with the students themselves, to identify the barriers and see what we can do to remove them,” the superintendent said.

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

A study into whether Mt. Ararat High School should be renovated or replaced has concluded that the facility should be rebuilt on its current site in Topsham.

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.