District considers Zenith relocation, bus barn renovation

By Louis Bettcher | Jan 09, 2017
Source: Google Aerial image of the bus barn building at the Camden-Rockport Middle School campus at Knowlton Street.

Camden — The Five Town Community School District Board on Jan 4. approved Superintendent Maria Libby to move forward negotiating cost options to relocate the alternative education program and adult education functions from the bus barn.

In addition, the CSD Board voted to consider a possible renovation to the bus barn, resulting in a building dedicated primarily to central office functions.

"The board strongly feels the bus barn facility was supposed to be a short-term option that has gone on too long," said School Board Chairman Kristin Collins.

In addition to adult education and Zenith, which an alternative education program for high school-age students, the bus barn holds the offices for the district's transportation operations and serves as the central offices for the Camden-Rockport Elementary School, Camden-Rockport Middle School, and Camden Hills Regional High School.

A previous plan to build a new middle school at Knowlton Street, which failed at the polls in February 2015, had considered renovating the Mary E. Taylor portion of the school to serve as the central office. Following the vote, Libby has served on the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee of the Five Town CSD, and has worked over the past year to address ways in which the functions of the bus barn can be improved.

Libby said the district has been exploring costs options for the past several months and has evaluated more than 12 possible solutions.

These options involve leasing space in-town to accommodate Zenith and adult education programs, and potentially keeping special education, transportation and central offices in a renovated bus barn. Libby said a renovation to the bus barn could accomplish a better work environment for the central office at a fraction of the cost of the MET renovation: $600,000 compared to a $3.4 million renovation proposed to convert the MET building to the central office in 2015.

"[If renovated] bus bays would be added, and there would be more appropriate office space: level floors, a better flow, an opportunity for confidentiality which we can't enjoy right now due to the design," said Libby.

She said she hopes to have final details available on the least-cost options at the next meeting of the CSD Board on Feb. 1.

"Both districts have a hand in this," said Libby with regard to potential costs. The Five Town CSD is responsible for Camden Hills, and SAD 28 includes the CRES and the CRMS. Both entities, and all three schools, share the "Central Office" in the bus barn.

Located at the end of the Camden-Rockport Middle School's Knowlton Street campus in Camden, the bus barn has served a myriad of purposes over the years in addition to housing school buses. In the late 1990s, when Camden-Rockport High School and the Mary E. Taylor Middle School shared the Knowlton Street property, high school students attended classes in the building.

Due to a shortage of classroom space at the high school, by 1997 the bus barn was converted inside to hold classes of all studies except music and physical education. One room in the bus barn even served as an art studio. An inability to cope with student population had already caused the schools to create makeshift classrooms once before, when mobile trailers were placed on campus between the cafeteria and playing fields, to serve as additional classrooms.

The next meeting of the SAD 28 School Board is Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. in the CRES Atrium. The next meeting of the CSD Board is Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. at Camden Hills.

Courier Publications reporter Louis Bettcher can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at lbettcher@villagesoup.com.

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