The ayes have it at March 20 straw poll vote to go forward with a new middle and high school. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JOHANNA BILLINGS

RSU 24 residents vote support for new building on Sumner site

SULLIVAN — By a vote of 46-11, residents of Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) signaled support for building a new middle and high school.

Residents gathered March 20 for a meeting and straw poll at Sumner Memorial High School. They voted by a show of hands to authorize the construction of a new high and middle school at an estimated cost of about $45 million.

The state will contribute approximately $44 million, said David Bridgham, the district’s business manager.

The local share of approximately $733,000 will cost property taxpayers between $2.98 and $28.70 a year additional in taxes — depending on which RSU 24 town one resides in — for properties assessed at $100,000, according to Superintendent Michael Eastman.

When the costs of operating the new school are factored in, the additional costs to taxpayers — again, depending on the town — will range from $6.20 to $31.63 a year.

“The numbers are likely to go down slightly,” Eastman said. “It’s unlikely they’ll go up.”

School officials plan to raise another $250,000 for items they want that the state was unwilling to pay for, such as a sports concession stand and a sprint track. The prep work for these items is included in the project as proposed.

Lyndon Keck of PTD Architects in Portland gave a presentation on the concept plan for the new school. It would accommodate up to 500 students. At 105,342 square feet, the two-story building would house 26 general classrooms, five science classrooms, 13 collaboration rooms, three industrial arts classrooms, an enclosed open-air courtyard, a high school gym along with a separate middle school gym, a learning commons, and a performance space with a stage and a cafeteria and kitchen, Keck said. The middle school classrooms and collaboration rooms will be located on the second floor.

“This is a very progressive floor plan,” said Keck, adding that the design follows national trends for hands-on learning.

A learning commons is a modern term for a library that is set up for students to work on projects. Unlike the libraries of the past, students are encouraged to talk in the learning commons, he said.

The new performance space will seat 300.

“[School officials] really wanted a bigger auditorium than 300 seats [but] 300 seats is what the state of Maine was willing to pay for,” he said.

A retractable wall between the back of the auditorium and the cafeteria will allow for an additional 200 to 250 seats.

The main entrance to the building will consist of two sets of doors. Visitors will enter the first set of doors and be required to sign in before the second set of doors will be unlocked.

All exit doors will be wired so that the front office will be alerted whenever one of them is opened.

“This is the new security protection that all new schools are using,” Keck said.

Students will continue to attend classes in the existing building while the new one is constructed where the baseball field is now.

The state is expected to approve the plan next month. A referendum will be held in June and, if approved, construction would begin in June 2020. Students would occupy the new building in September 2022 with demolition of the existing school building set to take place in August 2023.

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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