Wentworth school project planning gains momentum in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — It’s been three months since Scarborough voters overwhelmingly approved a $39 million plan to replace the town’s third- through fifth-grade school, but work continues every day for those leading the effort to build a new Wentworth Intermediate.

“We’re in the fine tuning now” of the site plan, said Paul Koziel, part owner of CPM Construction in Freeport and chairman of the Wentworth Building Committee. The group received a preliminary OK for its sketch plan at a recent Planning Board meeting. 

Koziel said planning is being broken down into four areas: schedule, site, interior and project infrastructure.

The plan is to send the project out to bid in early March and for the town to have approved a contractor around August. Ground should be broken on the project in September or October this year. Early next year, the woods behind the current school will have been cleared and construction will begin on the new school.

Koziel said he expects the new school to be complete by June 2014, and the old Wentworth to be destroyed and replaced with the new school’s 248-car parking lot by fall 2014.

Tim Ouellette, also of CPM, has chaired a site plan subcommittee and has hashed out decisions about placing the school, which will run east-west behind the current school. He has also worked with Gorrill Palmer traffic engineers to plan access and parking at the school.

During construction, the rear parking lot at the school will be cut off, limiting the number of spots available during the two-year construction period. Traffic congestion will likely increase due to construction vehicles entering and exiting the site.

“It’s a pretty tight site,” Ouellette said. “It’s going to be a big benefit to the town, but in the two years until then, it’ll be a change in what people are used to down there.”

While Koziel, Ouellette and others hash out the details about the site plan and the building, Wentworth Principal Ann-Mayre Dexter is researching and hatching plans for how the school, specifically classrooms, will be used. 

“My focus now is on what happens instructionally,” she said Tuesday.

Dexter said the current Wentworth building, with its overcrowded classrooms and limited access to new technology, hasn’t prepared teachers for everything that will be possible in a modern school. 

She has been sending teachers to other new schools in the area – such as the new Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland or recently completed buildings in Kennebunk, Westbrook and Buxton – and having them see what works, and what doesn’t, in the new spaces.

“This will be a whole different venue for us,” Dexter said. “I don’t want us to move in at the end and have to figure things out as we go.”

Classroom features such as storage, student circulation and display space all factor into classroom design. By visiting other schools, Dexter said, Wentworth staff can see different ideas in action.

“It’s about finding what new components out there can go into a new school,” Koziell said. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes others may have made in new school construction.”

The final piece of the planning puzzle is project infrastructure. Koziel said that means having clear lines of communication and decision-making as the project moves from conception to completion.

The School Board and town will pick an owner’s representative by the end of March, Koziel said. He or she will represent the town in conversations with the architect, Harriman Associates, and the still-to-be-chosen contractor. 

The 163-square-foot, two-story school will contain 40 classrooms and include a geothermal heating and cooling system. It will feature a large, internal courtyard to maximize natural light to classrooms, and a large gym that can be divided by a curtain, so two gym classes could be held at once.

The school would be home to operations larger than just Wentworth: the high school basketball and track teams would be expected to use the gym, the kitchen would continue to provide food for Wentworth and all the elementary schools, and space would be reserved for community services.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.