Auditorium under construction in the new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MALACHY FLYNN

Delayed start for Sumner

SULLIVAN — The start date for students at the Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus has been pushed back from Sept. 6 to Sept. 12.

In a letter to parents on Aug. 26, Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) Superintendent Michael Eastman announced that middle and high school students, both of whom will attend the new learning campus, will have their first day of school delayed by a week.

“In order to provide additional time for the building to be completed and time for our staff to move and get classrooms situated, we will push the start date for grades six through twelve to September 12th,” Eastman wrote in his letter.

The new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus is still under construction and water supply is an issue both for the sprinkler system and general use. The security system is also unfinished.

“Unfortunately, the new building will not be ready for us to welcome our middle and high school students on September 6th,” Eastman wrote in his letter.

The district has been pushing ahead with plans to start the school year in the building, despite construction setbacks, supply chain issues and safety concerns regarding the fire-suppression system.

“I write this letter with great frustration and exasperation as RSU #24 has done everything in its power to return students on the originally scheduled date,” Eastman wrote. “However, due to circumstances beyond our control, we find ourselves in this situation.”

RSU 24 officials remain optimistic about the rescheduled start of the school year and what the new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus will have to offer students.

“We are working hard as a school district to focus on the positives of this new building AND our smaller elementary schools — the benefits will far outweigh the stress of the delay,” Eastman wrote. “Although there is still much work to do, to complete the new school and to navigate the many moving parts associated with it, I am committed to working with CHA (our architect), the Department of Education and the general contractor Nickerson O’Day to get us in the building on September 12th.”

More updates on the building came on Tuesday, Aug. 30, as the RSU 24 Building Committee met with Kathy Cogan of CHA Architecture, who filled School Board members in on the status of the building.

“The construction is still ongoing, flooring, vinyl painting, cleaning windowsills, doors and hardware, exterior metal panel are all still ongoing,” Cogan said.

While some parts of the school, including the gymnasium and many of the classrooms, are now complete, other areas such as the auditorium and entryway are still under construction. Some of the technological systems in the building, notably the security systems, are also not complete.

“I don’t think that the systems will be complete by the end of this week,” Cogan said. “I don’t think that cameras will be fully installed or operational or tested. I’m very nervous that security hasn’t been finished yet.”

Cogan gave board members an update on the field work on the campus outside of the building.

“The final paving is slated to happen this week of the parking lots,” she said. “They have started putting the landscaping in, so trees and things arrived yesterday, I don’t believe they started sodding yet.”

Work on the fields will be completed next summer, but that is not new information, as the old Sumner Memorial High School must be demolished to complete the grounds of the new campus. Once this occurs, construction and sodding of the fields can take place. Cogan discussed the procedure for the demolition of the old building as well, which will take some work due to the asbestos it contains.

“We have to abate the asbestos in the existing building before we can demolish it, so I’ve been in touch with the abatement hygienist, the professional who will oversee the abatement to make sure that the asbestos is properly disposed of,” Cogan said.

One major issue that Cogan brought up to the board was the additional complications with water supply for the building. While it had already been confirmed that the Long Pond Water District cannot supply the volume and flow rate to meet the demands of the sprinkler system, it was revealed at this meeting that the water district cannot meet the volume and flow rate requirements for the potable water either.

“An educational building of this size should have a demand of 190 gallons per minute,” Cogan said. “The [Long Pond] Water District can only provide 75 gallons per minute, so that is not enough for the building. So, we are now looking at additional … long-term water solutions for the domestic water as well as the fire protection system, so that is looking like either a well solution or another holding tank.”

Whatever solution is reached for the potable water in the building, the water will need to be treated, and meet the flow rate requirement of 190 gallons per minute. Until a solution is decided upon and implemented, the building will be able to use water from the Long Pond Water District, but not at full capacity.

“We will use the Long Pond Water District domestic water for the building to get started, but at the 75 gallons per minute that means we need to throttle down the booster pumps that we have designed into the building,” Cogan said.

The cost of a solution to supply potable water has not been priced out but Cogan said that it will be significant. There was no explanation for why the engineers on this project miscalculated water flow and why the problem was identified so late in the project. As for the issue of supplying water to the fire suppression system, a plan is in place for installing cisterns to store water for the sprinklers.

“The long-term fire protection solution has been largely designed,” Cogan said. “The good news is that it looks like we can fit the holding tanks on site adjacent to the building.”

Cogan also discussed the code enforcement officer’s walk-through of the building, updating the board on the concerns he has regarding the building’s completion.

“The code enforcement officer is looking to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy, which would have a time limit for us to complete the corrective action measures associated with the fire protection system,” Cogan said.

“There’s still a lot left to do for the code enforcement officer to be satisfied that he could issue … a temporary certificate of occupancy, which would allow you to occupy the building,” she noted.

In addition to the water supply for the fire suppression system, the code enforcement officer was also concerned about the active construction still taking place in parts of the building, evacuation plans, the number of people in the building, information on hours of operation and a plan to protect the occupants from the construction in the building.

“I do think that teachers will be able to be in the building next week assuming that we can get a temporary certificate of occupancy, and if the teachers are in next week, then it would seem that we could probably have students in the building the following week,” Cogan said. “But I can’t guarantee that. I wish I could.”

Malachy Flynn

Reporter Malachy Flynn covers news on the Schoodic beat, which includes the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Sorrento, Sullivan, Trenton, Waltham, and Winter Harbor. He also reports on the town of Tremont on Mount Desert Island. He welcomes tips and suggestions about stories in the area. To contact Malachy with tips or questions, email him at [email protected].

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