New construction wins out over renovation of middle school
Camden — If voters approve funding, Camden will move forward with construction of a new middle school rather than renovating the existing buildings.
A public hearing took place March 20 following a presentation by Maine School Administrative District 28 School Board Chairman Matthew Dailey on the history of the current school and its deficiencies. Oak Point Associates of Biddeford laid out three plans that focused on renovation and one for new construction.
After a straw vote by those in attendance, the School Board voted 7-0 to support a plan for new construction of a middle school on the same property. According to Superintendent Elaine Nutter, Oak Point will continue developing a design for the new school and will check in with district officials several times before a complete plan is presented to the School Board and public in June.
The new construction plans call for an 82,000-square-foot structure to be built behind the existing school. Construction would take place in phases and would not interrupt the educational process. Oak Point estimated the new school would cost $23 million.
After the last public hearing in January, the architects were asked to develop a plan for substantial renovations with additions to the current building.
Oak Point took community input from that public hearing and compiled it with their analysis of the middle school site. The company determined its ongoing suitability as a middle school campus before development of new site plans including proposed additions or demolitions, and educational specifications to meet state standards and district needs.
Robert Tillotson, president of Oak Point, said although renovating the existing building would cost less, renovation comes with drawbacks including being disruptive to educational programming, less efficient square footage, does not address safety and security issues, creates disconnection of programs, negates creation of small group spaces and the cafeteria remains congested.
Each plan was presented, with three options for renovations first.
The first plan called for a reduction in square footage from 121,860-square-feet to 113,000-square-feet and a phased-in project that retained the majority of the building but demolished the seventh grade wing. It also called for renovations to the basement of the Mary E. Taylor building, updates to the electrical and mechanical systems, updated fire sprinklers and alarms to meet ADA and Life Safety standards and an upgrade to the building envelope. The estimated cost for this plan was $17.6 million.
The next plan called for 101,500-square-feet with 8,200-square-feet of light renovation to the basement of the Mary E. Taylor portion of the school. The plan included approximately 50,000-square-feet in renovations and 43,000-square-feet of new additions. The option retained the Mary E. Taylor building and gymnasium. The estimated cost of the second option was $25 million.
The third plan presented involved demolition of the entire building except the Mary E. Taylor portion, which would remain a standalone building to possibly house the superintendents', adult and alternative education offices. An additional 17,000-square-feet of renovation and 70,000-square-feet of new construction was also included. Estimated cost of that project was $23.6 million.
Lastly, new construction was considered.
The original Camden Grade School was constructed in 1925 and shortly thereafter was renamed Mary E. Taylor School. In 1950, a 1,600-square-foot space was erected to house the school’s gymnasium, lockers and boiler rooms. The next addition was completed in 1955, which contained several classrooms and science labs.
The two buildings were connected in 1962 with the addition of another educational wing between the cafeteria and the gymnasium. This section of the building is known as the Andrews wing. Two more additions were built in the ‘60s, including the industrial arts wing, and in 1980 the mini-gym and additional classrooms were added.
In 2000, four other major projects were completed. Those projects included a second 2,400-square-foot connector between the Andrews wing and the gymnasium. An elevator was installed in this connector and old locker rooms were converted into storage space. New locker rooms were built on the gymnasium level where a stage use to be.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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