At the December 15, 2020 meeting the School Board voted unanimously in favor of approving the School Building Committee’s recommendation to concurrently replace the elementary and middle school buildings with a single bond. In addition, the committee recommendation includes allocating ample funds for the renovation of the high school in order to extend its functionality.
The School Building Committee’s recommendation, voted on during the December 8 committee meeting, was preceded by numerous meetings, inspections, analysis, tours, and first-hand reports from staff and students dating back to the summer of 2017. By virtue of examining how to improve the safety of the elementary and middle school buildings, the need to address the buildings' failing infrastructure became the primary objective. The School Board first attempted to fund a feasibility study within the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, but was unsuccessful in receiving approval from the Town Council. In efforts to gain more community awareness and support, a Needs Assessment Committee was formed during the fall of 2018 and given the single charge of determining whether or not a complete facilities study of all three school buildings was warranted. After four meetings, the committee determined that a thorough study should be included in the School Board fiscal year budget for 2020. The Needs Assessment Committee’s Executive Summary can be found here.
Consequentially, the funds for a Needs Assessment were approved and included in the School Board fiscal year 2020 budget. Colby Company Engineers, selected through a RFP process initiated in 2017, conducted the research during the summer of 2019 and presented the final Cape Elizabeth Schools Needs Assessment Report on October 29, 2019 to a newly formed Building Committee. Similar to the previous committee, the broad array of the School Building Committee members included: school administrators, town manager, town councilors, business director, facilities director, director of nutrition, director of athletics, teachers, students, parents, community members, and school board members. The charge of the new committee, as stated by Superintendent Donna Wolfrom, was “to review the Needs Assessment Report; determine priorities; determine the size and scope of a future building project and bond; and then make a recommendation to the School Board.”
Since their formation in October 2019, the committee met ten times in order to review the report findings, analyze options, and examine various factors. As a result of the findings, four options were highlighted by Colby Company Engineers.
Option 1: Phasing elementary school and middle school building replacement into two separate projects lasting over ten or more years and requiring two separate bonds.
Option 2: Concurrent elementary school and middle school building replacement lasting approximately four years and requiring only one bond.
Option 3: Frame-off restoration and renovation of existing elementary and middle schools within four years through one bond, but adding the rental of portable temporary classrooms.
Option 4: Improving front-entrance security and cafetorium upgrades at both the elementary and middle schools over a period of two to three years.
The committee voted to remove Option 4 at the October 22, 2020 meeting concluding that it would not be fiscally responsible. The majority of the committee voted to remove Option 3 during the November 24 meeting, stating that renovations would not be cost-efficient. Before voting to remove the third option, the committee weighed the environmental impact of renovating versus constructing new buildings with tighter methods and materials. Ultimately, after examining many facets of constructing new schools, including looking at the history of maintenance expenses, student enrollment projections, debt capacity estimates, current cost of borrowing and the tax impact, the Building Committee voted in favor of recommending Option 2 to the School Board.
Upon the School Board’s vote to approve the recommendation on Tuesday, the next step in the process includes attaining a schematic design in order to be able to determine the size of one future bond. Once the schematic design is complete, the expectation is that the bond referendum could go to the voters approximately one year later.
Information on all meetings and materials related to the both the Building Committee and Needs Assessment Committee are available on the school department website or by clicking here. Video recordings of all meetings can be found on the CETV website by clicking here.