Knowing available options is the driving force behind a comprehensive architectural and engineering study requested by School Administrative District 28's school board to explore physical improvements to Camden-Rockport Middle School.

The school board is asking for $125,000 — which is included in the 2013-2014 budget — to study options to make the school more economical to operate and more user-friendly. Funding for the study is contingent on voters passing the school budget in June.

“What this does is it allow us to negotiate with a selected firm and take a look at the current site and see what our options are,” said Superintendent Elaine Nutter.

The chosen firm would be asked to review the footprint of the building and the grounds and compare it to state regulations. Each school is required to have a certain amount of space for different programs and the study will compare to see whether there is too much or too little space.

Another area that would be covered by the study is how to reduce the building's energy consumption.

“Energy consumption is very important,” Nutter said. “We want to take a look at green options and definitely want to make sure that [the school] is run as efficiently as possible.”

She said a biomass boiler, wood pellets or compressed natural gas all would offer potential heating and cooling savings.

The layout of the building also is expected to be addressed. The flow of traffic in the building is a concern because of the distance students have to travel from one end of the building to the other.

“It feels very disjointed, everything is too spread out,” she said. “Students have to cross through a busy cafeteria at lunchtime to get to class, which causes some issues and is not an efficient use of the students' time.”

Nutter said she also feels there are spaces in the school that, for one reason or another, are not being used to their full potential.

“We have some very beautiful spaces that are not being used or are being used for storage that can be utilized better, in my opinion,” she said. "There is a wonderful space on the top floor of the Mary E. Taylor building that is empty and a court yard that never gets used, for example."

Nutter said she feels looking at the outside of the building, the campus and the traffic patterns on Knowlton Street are significant aspects of the study.

“It's very congested at times and the student drop-off is out of sight of the administrative offices,” Nutter said. “The layout of the everything could definitely be improved. We just need someone to help us with figuring out our best options.”

The school board has laid out a timeline — interviews with potential architectural firms will begin in May. Award of the contract to complete the study is scheduled for the middle of June and the selected firm is scheduled to present a complete study to the board in June 2014.

“Community input is so very important and at the end we want to know does this school continue to be integrated with the community,” Nutter said. “We have the proposals, the first stage is to determine who to interview. This all depends on the passing of the budget.”

One of the major goals of the study is to help SAD 28 create a comprehensive plan for improvements to the building and grounds the right way, so as not to continue to spend money to fix or repair things for the short term. Nutter said she feels the study will give the district guidelines on how to approach long-term maintenance of the entire school and complete it in a economical manner.

“What we don't want to do is keep spending money on things until we have a more comprehensive plan on what to fix and have it done correctly the first time,” she said, adding there are existing known problems. “There are some issues with the building, like a crack in the foundation by the consumer family science wing. Ventilation is an issue down in the auditorium and the library is undersized for the number of students that go to school here. These are some of the things that a study like this will help us identify.”

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 build on the gymnasium level where a stage use to be.

Camden Herald reporter Dwight Collins can be reached at 236-8511 or dcollins@courierpublicationsllc.com.