SULLIVAN — In less than a year, Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) middle- and high-schoolers will be roaming the halls of the brand-new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus. Until then, students and community members can get a tour of the building under construction and see for themselves the progress being made on the state-of-the-art facility.
“It literally changes by the day,” said Sumner Memorial High School Principal JT Green. Donning a hardhat and high-visibility vest, Green gave a tour on a sunny afternoon, listing detail after detail of the 105,342-square-foot structure.
He also discussed how the project needs funding for amenities that the state won’t pay for.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to hold public gatherings, but Green hopes to have events that both celebrate the big move to the new building and honor the current one.
“This is so close to the hearts of people in the community,” Green said of the current Sumner school, whose first graduating class was in 1953.
Potential opportunities for events, depending on the pandemic, include holding a “last dance” and inviting alumni. Auctions may be held for items such as pieces of the gym floor and old lockers.
Money generated from those auctions will help fund some amenities at the new facility.
While the $44 million project (about $34 million of which is in construction costs) is funded largely by the state, certain guidelines limit what the state will pay for.
Groups, including Friends of Sumner’s Future, are trying to raise $1 million through private donations to cover the school’s extra expenses, such as digital signage, landscaping, exterior field lighting, a 100-meter sprint track, an indoor batting cage, sprinkler system and bleachers.
“Some pretty important things,” Green said.
So far, $281,485 of the $1 million goal has been pledged and/or contributed.
Green explained that the state used to pay 9 percent of costs for fixtures, furniture and equipment for new schools. He said the new Sumner school is the first building project in the state to receive the state’s reduced contribution of 6 percent, a loss of $876,817.
Those who are interested in donating to the project can contact the high school’s main office at 422-3510.
The project, one that has been years in the making, is on track for school administration to take possession of the building in mid-July from Nickerson & O’Day Inc., the Brewer-based construction company that won the bid to build the new school, Green said. Contractors will then teach school officials how to use the new building, including its new heating and lighting systems.
While establishing an official calendar for the 2022-23 academic year is on hold, plans are to have students in the building by the end of August or beginning of September.
A few tweaks to building plans have been made, such as adding more windows to certain classrooms, but for the most part, the general plans have stayed the same, Green said.
The Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus is the all-encompassing name for the educational site. Sumner Memorial High School will be housed on the building’s first floor, with Sumner Middle School taking up the second floor.
About 420 students will attend the grades 6-through-12 facility, requiring about 50 teachers, not including other faculty and staff including administration, support staff and custodians.
The first floor will be home to most of the campuses’ shared spaces, such as music and art rooms, the cafeteria, the auditorium, the middle school gym and the high school gym. At the entryway, space is designated for all administration for both schools.
Both gyms have their walls up, giving shape to the site of future games, matches and events.
“I imagine this will get a lot of [community] use,” Green said of the high school gym.
Like the current Clint Ritchie Gymnasium, the new gym will have a seating capacity of 350.
The RSU 24 Board of Directors unanimously approved at its July 20 meeting naming the larger of the two gyms (the high school gym) after First National Bank and the building’s courtyard after Bar Harbor Bank & Trust (BHBT).
At that same meeting, the board approved a $60,000 donation from First National Bank and $25,000 from BHBT.
Just across the hall from the gyms, complete with four windows that nearly stretch the length of the wall, are the beginnings of the cafeteria and nearby auditorium.
The auditorium will have 300 movie theater style seats, with the option to double the seating capacity by wheeling portable bleachers into the cafeteria.
Classrooms that line the halls measure at 650 to 700 square feet. Science classrooms are 800 square feet.
Like the current high school, the new building will be equipped with a wood and mechanic shop, but this one will offer even more to students, including an industrial car lift. The lift will allow students to work on vehicles from all angles and perform tasks such as oil changes.
Currently, students are working with especially old equipment, including a drill press from before World War I, Green shared.
“It’s really a great opportunity for us to have state-of-the-art equipment,” Green said, noting the importance in supporting education for trades.
Upstairs, expansive windows overlook Cadillac Mountain and Mount Desert Island.
Green said some RSU 24 middle school students have already taken tours of the new building and have been in awe at the building’s plans for an elevator and multiple stories (the third floor has been nicknamed “The Penthouse” and will house mechanical equipment).
Outside, the campus will be equipped with a lighting system that was developed in collaboration with staff from Acadia National Park, who worked with the school district to minimize potential for light pollution, Green said.
When there isn’t anyone on campus, the lights will be at 50 percent illumination. Sensors will detect when people or vehicles enter the campus and will bring lighting to 100 percent illumination.
Besides helping decrease light pollution, Green said the system will help with maintaining campus security.
In the fall, the old building will be demolished, and a soccer field created.
Area residents who would like a tour of the new building can reach out to Green by calling the high school or emailing him at [email protected].