Yarmouth enrollment growth requires portable classroom at Rowe School

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YARMOUTH — A portable classroom will be added to the William H. Rowe School next school year while school renovation plans are finalized for a voter referendum in November. 

An ad hoc School Facilities Committee has been discussing renovations to all four public schools that could cost up to $35 million. 

On May 21, Superintendent Andrew Dolloff distributed a written update on the project, which is the result of three public forums to explain the results of the study, share the options studied, and hear feedback from the community. 

Dolloff said a more accurate cost estimate than $35 million is “being developed.” 

“Some relief may be provided by the fact that current school construction debt (for projects completed nearly 20 years ago) will be gradually retired and then fully paid off over the next few years,” Dolloff said in his memo. “The intent is to time the addition of this new debt with the retirement of existing debt as much as possible, so that the taxpayers of the town will experience a less-significant increase in the early years of the repayment.”

The Facilities Committee – made up of residents, School Committee members, district administration and architectural engineers – will hold meetings May 30 and June 13 to finalize plans ahead of public forums June 19 and 20.

In Dolloff’s update, he reiterated that the school buildings themselves are in “very good shape,” but renovations are needed as “capacity is a growing concern.”

“The most significant physical plant issues are at Yarmouth Elementary School – our oldest facility – and with our continually growing enrollment,” Dolloff said. “Since 2008, enrollment district-wide has increased more than 17 percent, from 1,393 nine years ago to today’s student count of 1,636.”

At Rowe, seven additional classroom spaces are needed to handle growing enrollment, he said. In the meantime, a portable unit will be installed by September, with a seventh kindergarten classroom moving into what is the current art room. Music classes have already been displaced from their dedicated space and moved into the library. 

“Adding to this dilemma is the call for local school districts to take over the pre-kindergarten programming that is currently provided by Child Development Services of Maine,” Dolloff said. “This could bring an additional 60 students to Rowe School in the next two years.”

Along with another seven classrooms, Rowe requires additional rooms for instructional support services and larger core spaces such as the library and cafeteria/gymnasium, according to Dolloff’s report. 

The capacity of the renovated school will be 266 in kindergarten and first grade with a projected enrollment of 228 in 2027. The school could also accommodate up to 64 pre-K students.

Alhough Yarmouth Elementary School is in good shape structurally, enrollment growth continues to require additional classroom and core spaces. In order to avoid a similar expansion at Harrison Middle School, it was decided to shift fifth grade from Harrison to YES as part of this project.

The capacity of the expanded school will be 689, with a projected enrollment of 612 in 2027.

Harrison will be the least-impacted school in terms of construction. By moving fifth grade to YES, the projected enrollment at HMS will drop to 479 in 2027.

Two portable classrooms bring its current capacity to 525. Approximately 540 students are enrolled. By adding a small addition of classrooms to one end of the building and relocating music classes to new spaces at the other end of the building, the facility will meet the needs of up to 525 students, according to Dolloff.

Another significant issue to be addressed in the plan are traffic patterns at Harrison. A separate bus loop would be created at one end of the school and a reconfiguration of the current loop in front of the school will allow student drop-off and pick-up in a safe setting.

Proposed renovations to the high school address concerns about enrollment, parking, programming and security. 

“YHS is the only school in the district that does not provide a security vestibule connected to the main office for school-day entrance into the building,” Dolloff wrote. “By relocating the main entrance to the Southeast side of the building (closest the large parking lot), a more secure entrance is created.”

Parking will be increased by adding spaces in each of the existing lots.

The fitness room would also be removed from the center of the school to allow for an expansion of the cafeteria and rebuilt next to the gymnasium.

The Performing Arts Center would also be expanded and a two-story classroom addition would extend off the current academic wing on the Northeast side of the building.

The capacity of the expanded school will be 654 – one student over the projected 2027 enrollment of 653. 

Dolloff also noted that proposed upgrades include safety improvements, such as controlled-entry vestibules with security glass, increased video monitoring, improved communications systems, upgraded alarm/notification systems, improved exterior lighting, upgraded classroom door locks, key card access for staff, exterior door and window labeling and crash barriers near entrances.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff said proposed renovation plans include separating the cafeteria and gymnasium and the addition of a new gymnasium at Yarmouth Elementary School.

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