New middle school building design released

By Louis Bettcher | May 09, 2017
Source: Oak Point Associates A rendering by Oak Point Associates shows the facade of a proposed design for the Camden-Rockport Middle School on Knowlton Street in Camden.

Camden — Renderings of a proposed design for the new Camden-Rockport Middle School project show a facade which combines traditional and modern architecture: dormer windows, stone and wooden shingles and a glass atrium.

The renderings, created by Oak Point Associates of Biddeford, were presented along with floor plans and site maps by Superintendent Maria Libby on May 6 at the Camden Public Library.

"It was yet another chance to get in front of the public about the proposal. We're trying to communicate as much as we can about the project," said Libby on May 8.

The library event was organized by a group of parents involved in the campaign to build a new middle school. Two official public forums will be held in both Camden and Rockport in the coming weeks, which Libby says will be presented by architects involved in the project.

Structural problems, as well as issues with parking, safety and concerns of adequate educational space at the current school building contributed to the need felt by parents, teachers and administrators that a new school be built on the Knowlton Street site.

The new plans site the school with an significant setback from Knowlton Street. The current facility meanders close to the road, from the old Camden High School building to the Mary E. Taylor building, which was built in the 1920s. The street is flooded in the morning and afternoon, as parents, school buses and children on foot, use it to arrive and depart the school.

The proposed designs situates the school at the top of Knowlton Street, and places two circular driveways at the main entrance to the school, one for parents and one for school buses. Rows of parking spaces are allocated next to the parent drop-off loop, and would be built over a portion of the "high school" wing facility, which is an amalgam of classrooms that were incorporated with the middle school when the new Camden Hills Regional High School was built.

In the new school, classrooms are arranged in the "academic wing," a long extension into the rear of the property. The classrooms appear to be arranged on three levels, with staircases at either end. CRMS Principal Jaime Stone said that one of her concerns with the current layout is that classrooms and hallways branch off into a number of directions and levels.

"Some of the concerns in terms of flow for students are the number of narrow, winding, unsupervised hallways we have because of the sprawl of the building. The building was never meant to be one building, it's multiple buildings that were connected over time," said Stone in March.

A tour of the school in March revealed roof leaks, tempermental elevators, flying ants in exposed wood, a boiler "locked-out" due to leaks and cavernous unused spaces beneath the building. In the days following the tour, students were sent home as a result of a boiler leak which deposited 50 gallons of oil onto the boiler room floor.

Facilities Director Keith Rose has said on multiple occasions over the past year that the current building is long past its prime.

“The entire infrastructure of this building is at the end of its useful life. We're talking the complete electrical system... all the plumbing, the heating distribution," said Rose in March, adding that one wing of the building has been sinking over the years, a result of being placed on unstable ground.

Due to the new, compacted design, the proposed school will have a much smaller footprint on the Knowlton Street property, allowing additional space for athletic fields. The presentation Libby delivered highlighted reductions in energy and operation expenses of approximately $300,000 annually at the new facility.

Other benefits touted by the proposal are increases to safety through improved traffic flow and in-school supervision, and a positive impact to the community as a whole.

"Strong schools equal healthy communities that attract young families and retirees. Strong schools help sustain the economic vitality of our community," states the presentation packet.

Last November, the School Administrative District 28 Board accepted the recommendation of the Camden-Rockport Middle School Building Vision Committee that a new middle school building be constructed at 34 Knowlton St. Voters in Camden and Rockport will be asked to approve the project at the June 13 polls.

The new middle school building was one of three options that the CRMS Building Vision Committee had explored in order to address the obstacles at the current Camden-Rockport Middle School. The other options were to patch or to renovate the existing school. Last year the committee created a matrix chart explaining the costs of each option and what they would entail.

The construction of a new middle school at the Knowlton Street property would cost an estimated $26.3 million. Renovations to the current facility addressing structural, systems and energy issues would cost an estimated $20.5 million, and some of the current facility would be torn down. The patching options would cost $16.4 million and would address structural issues, ADA compliance, life safety, and all existing buildings would remain.

The Rockport public hearing on the middle school project will be held Thursday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House. A public forum will be held in Camden on Monday, May 22 at the Washington Street Conference Room at 7 p.m. Information on the project can be found at crmsmiddlematters.info/

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