Topsham high school study could wrap up this month

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TOPSHAM — A facilities study to determine whether Mt. Ararat High School should be renovated or replaced could be complete later this month, School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Brad Smith said July 30.

With a recommendation from Portland-based architectural firm PDT in hand, the district plans to hold public hearings in its four towns.

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

The school has few windows, much open interior space, and significant disruption between classes, Lyndon Keck of PDT said at a “Public Visioning” meeting in May.

“This is one of those unusual schools which was an open-plan school designed in the ’70s,” he said. “People thought that was a great idea then, it turned out to be a bad idea then, and it’s an even worse idea now.”

Keck’s firm is studying the school and its needs, as well as those of its students, faculty, staff, parents and other community members. PDT will determine whether it is more feasible to renovate or build a new school. If renovation is chosen, the building will be gutted, and look brand new, Keck said.

In next month’s forums, “we want to be able to get out into each town with the architectural firm and some members of the (district’s) Building Committee and myself,” Smith said, “to share with members of our community what the findings were and what the recommendation is, and where we see this project going in the future.”

Citizens will have the opportunity to give input and ask questions, the superintendent said.

“By mid-September we’ll know whether it’s (renovate) versus new,” he added.

The forums 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.

The meetings will run from 6-7:30 p.m., and people may attend any of the sessions, Smith said.

Concept design is expected to take 18-24 months. The project will likely not go to voters until November 2016 or June 2017.

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

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A study into whether Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham should be renovated or rebuilt could be finished this month.

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.