Preliminary plans to address safety and security issues at Regional School Unit 14’s two middle schools were addressed at a meeting of the Board of Directors Wednesday.
Whether the board decides to pursue renovations at the schools or opt for new construction will determine how the projects are paid for, in accordance with a new cost-sharing formula between the two RSU towns of Windham and Raymond.
Any renovations to the schools would be paid for by both towns, board member Jeri Keane-Dreyer said. However, capital investments, including new buildings, would be paid for only by the town they directly serve.
For example, if a new middle school were constructed in Windham, only Windham taxpayers would foot the bill.
Bill Hansen, the district’s facilities director, told the board that Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond has good classroom sizes and a nice exterior, but requires renovations to address issues of security and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance. It also needs roof repairs.
At Windham Middle School, a basic renovation won’t cut it, Hansen said. The 39-year-old building has the same issues as Jordan-Small, but also fails to meet life safety fireproofing requirements and suffers it from a lack of ventilation, among other issues.
Options for Windham Middle School include renovating the building and constructing an additional classroom wing, or constructing an entirely new middle school.
The preliminary plan for a new middle school calls for a 140,500-square-foot building to be constructed on Athletic Fields 10 and 4, adjacent to the Windham Public Library. If a new middle school is built, two athletic fields will be expanded to create three fields that would help remediate the loss of space for athletics.
An addition to Windham Middle School would involve knocking down a portion of the existing structure, renovating the cafeteria and gymnasium portion of the building and adding a classroom wing. The 119,500-square-foot middle school would be contained on its current footprint next to the Field Allen Building.
While the existing middle school has a wooden frame, the addition “would be similar to Raymond Elementary or the Windham Primary School, with a steel construction,” said Hansen.
It would allow for the consolidation of the sixth grade, now taught in the Field Allen building, with the seventh and eighth grades.
Renovations to the existing Windham Middle School could be minor or major, Hansen said. Minor renovations would merely resolve safety issues at the school, but would not bring the school up to a standard that would match the new addition.
If only minor renovations are pursued to the existing middle school, Hansen said, eventually it would need more.
One complication about pursuing the renovations is completing the work with minimal disruptions to classrooms during the estimated two years of construction.
“It’s a challenge but it can be done,” said Hansen, referencing the recent work at Windham High School, which was completed without moving students out of the building.
An advantage of constructing an entirely new school, said Hansen, is that “it can be constructed with little impact on students.”
Both the plans for an addition to Windham Middle School and a new building include options for constructing an additional floor, said Hansen, if growth becomes necessary due to an increased population.
Cost estimates for the projects are not yet available, but will be made public by the end of the month, Hansen said.
The board is looking to form a parents committee by June. A public information session is scheduled for Sept. 7, 2016.
The school plans will likely go to a public referendum vote in June 2017, and, if approved, funds would be introduced to the 2018 fiscal year budget. The new buildings likely will not open before 2020, according to Hansen.
Preliminary drawings for a new Windham Middle School were presented to the Regional School Unit 14 Board of Directors Wednesday.
One option for addressing security and safety issues at Windham Middle School is to renovate a portion of the school and construct an additional classroom wing. Preliminary plans for the renovation and construction, presented to the district board Wednesday, are shown above.