Council gets update on GHS proposal

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Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry makes a point in a joint school committee/town council workshop Jan. 17 about plans for a high school renovation and expansion project.

Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry makes a point in a joint school committee/town council workshop Jan. 17 about plans for a high school renovation and expansion project.

GORHAM — The Gorham Town Council in a workshop meeting with the school committee on Jan. 17 heard an update on proposed renovations and an expansion of the town’s high school.

The high school is aging and overcrowded, school officials say, and sits on a cramped site. “Twenty-three acres is pretty small,” Superintendent Heather Perry said.

But school officials are planning to keep the high school on its existing site, including the athletic fields. Needs for a project are now being assessed and no cost estimate for a project has been released.

The high school opened in 1959 and underwent an $11.6 million renovation to accommodate 750 students. Enrollment now is about 850.

According to School Department figures, classroom sizes “average” between 517 and 700 square feet, compared to today’s standard 800 square feet. Brian Jandreau, high school principal, described the changes in education from former days. “It’s a brave new world we’re living in,” Jandreau said, referring to the title of a novel by Aldous Huxley.

A high school project would be funded by local taxpayers because the state would not provide funds. Daniel Cecil of Harriman Architects & Engineers, the consultant hired to design a project, said a concrete dollar amount would be available in 2019.

“We need to decide what the community will be comfortable with,” Town Councilor Ronald Shepard said, prodding school officials for a price.

Cecil replied, “We’re not there yet.”

The School Department’s timeline calls for a referendum in June 2019. But there could be some division among town councilors on the date. Town Council Chairman Benjamin Hartwell said he was “uncomfortable” with a June referendum that could have a potential low voter turnout.

A referendum date, which could be delayed to November next year to coincide with the town’s municipal election, would likely be debated by town councilors.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com.