School board hires architect for high school

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Daniel Cecil of Harriman Architects & Engineers addresses a Gorham School Committee special meeting last week. The School Committee OK'd a contract for $217,500 to design a concept plan to expand and renovate the high school.

Daniel Cecil of Harriman Architects & Engineers addresses a Gorham School Committee special meeting last week. The School Committee OK’d a contract for $217,500 to design a concept plan to expand and renovate the high school.

GORHAM — The School Committee has hired a consultant to design a concept for additions and renovation of the high school, including athletic fields.

The committee unanimously voted 6-0 to hire Harriman Architects & Engineers as the consultant and agreed to pay up to $217,500 for its services. Daniel Cecil, a Harriman principal attended last week’s special School Committee meeting.

A high school project requires School Committee and Town Council approval. “We’re going to have a good project to go to the town with,” School Committee Chairman Darryl Wright said.

A proposal could go to Gorham voters in 2019, according to a revamped timeline. But, state participation in funding a high school project is unlikely.

The enrollment once swelled to about 900 and the student population numbered 850 this fall. Officials say the building is outdated and overcrowded.The high school opened in 1959. The building in the 1990s received a $11.6 million renovation to accommodate 750 students.

The goal is to keep the high school on the current campus.

The School Committee in September received a $150,000 cash advance from the Town Council to begin planning for a project. But school officials are expected to return to ask councilors for additional money, including enough to pay the architect.  Wright said the Town Council is aware the School Department is “coming back.”

The next Town Council meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the municipal center, 75 South St., when its new board is seated after the Nov. 7 election. Four candidates are competing for two available terms in a race without longtime Councilor Michael Phinney, who is not seeking re-election.

The School Committee had the option of delaying a vote on hiring a consultant until after next week’s election when four of the School Committee’s seven seats are available. Five candidates are vying for three, three-year terms while two others are competing for a one-year term.

The School Committee met in the special meeting with school candidates. Wright said a discussion with candidates before the election was not a first.

Besides the proposed high school project, Wright informed candidates of other issues that included the reconfiguration of the town’s three elementary schools, length of school days and start times.

Topics in the discussion with candidates included communications with the public, preparation for School Committee meetings, and advice about conducting school business. Superintendent Heather Perry informed candidates about interaction with the local legislative delegation.

“With the new members of the School Committee coming on it was a great opportunity for them to sit down and ask questions of all of us as it was important for the conversation to happen with the outgoing members as well,” Wright said in an email to the American Journal. “As a sitting member on the School Committee it was nice to meet the candidates that attended as I had not had the opportunity to meet or talk to all of them prior.”

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or [email protected]