Topsham, Harpswell school district to hold forums on high school's fate

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TOPSHAM — School Administrative District 75 will hold four public meetings this month on whether Mt. Ararat High School should be renovated or replaced.

Presentations about the project status and open forums will be part of the meetings, which 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.

The analysis of “new vs. reno” is the fifth stage of a 21-step, state-developed process that will include two public straw votes, according to SAD 75. The first vote – step 6 of the process – will be on the project location, while the second – step 12 – will cover the building concept.

Positive results at both votes will trigger a referendum on whether to fund the project, which is likely to occur in the fall of 2016. Four approvals by the state Board of Education are also required along the way.

“We encourage the public to attend one of these four meetings,” Superintendent Brad Smith said in an Aug. 15 press release. “Input from the public is critical to the success of the project, and will be reviewed by the (district’s) Building Committee and architectural firm.”

A draft facilities study by the firm, Portland-based PDT, recently concluded that the high school should be rebuilt on its current site. The firm has determined the cost to renovate the school will exceed that of rebuilding the school.

“The initial reports have included the location of vernal pools, which impact potential locations of the project,” Smith added. “The architects and Building Committee are presently evaluating possible plans to keep the high school on the present campus.”

SAD 75 has applied for state school construction funding since 1999, and the building ranked seventh in 2014 on a state construction funding list. The existing two-story building, constructed with an “open concept” in 1973, has been dubbed a “school with no walls.”

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

A series of forums on whether Mt. Ararat High School should be renovated or rebuilt will be held in School Administrative District 75’s four towns from Sept. 17-30.

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.