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Rockland-area board sets vote on $23.2 million school borrowing

By Stephen Betts | Jan 05, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts Oceanside High School in Rockland.

Rockland — Residents of Regional School Unit 13 will decide Feb. 28 whether to borrow up to $23.2 million to build a new elementary school and fund major upgrades and expansions at both Oceanside High School in Rockland and Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston.

The RSU13 board voted unanimously at its Thursday night, Jan. 5, meeting to hold the bond referendum. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in Rockland, Cushing, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Thomaston.

The projects include construction of a new kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school to be located on the grounds of the Owls Head Central School. If that school is constructed, the existing Owls Head school will be demolished and the Gilford Butler School in South Thomaston will be closed and offered to the town of South Thomaston, according to district officials.

The projected cost of the new school is $9.3 million. The Owls Head School was built in 1952 and educates students in grades three through fiive. Gilford Butler was built in 1955 and educates students in kindergarten through second grade.

Another $13.9 million would be spent on the high school and middle school.

Work at the high school would comprise constructing a new kitchen and cafeteria, renovating the existing kitchen and cafeteria for administrative offices and a new main lobby. The existing administrative offices and lobby would be converted to classrooms, district officials said.

Additional bathrooms would be built and the lower-level locker rooms would be renovated. An elevator would be added to reach the lower level. A sprinkler system would also be added.

Construction at the high school will take up to 14 months when the final design is completed, according to administrators..

At the middle school in Thomaston, a classroom wing would be built on the northwest side of the school. The district wants that work done by the start of the 2017-2018 school year to allow sixth-graders to be educated there. Sixth-graders currently spend the mornings in Rockland before being bused to the middle school in Thomaston after lunch.

The middle school project also would convert the industrial arts space into a new kitchen and cafeteria. Once the new kitchen and cafeteria are completed, the existing kitchen and cafeteria would be converted into additional classroom space. The project would also include the construction of a bus garage, district officials said.

The high school was built in 1962 and the middle school -- formerly Georges Valley High School -- was built in 1963.

Former board member Donald Robishaw Jr. of Rockland had urged the board before the vote to be cautious in calling for $23.3 million in additional debt. He said the district will be taking on $7 million more in debt with the approval in November of the new Mid-Coast School of Technology.

"I'm concerned with the taxpayers. Without the taxpayers, we can't have schools," Robishaw said.

Board Vice Chairman Loren Andrews of Cushing said the bond is central to the school consolidation and efficiency program in the district. In addition to demolition of the Owls Head Central School and turning Gilford Butler over to South Thomaston, the district will be moving out of the McLain School in Rockland and offering it to the city of Rockland. The current offices at McLain will relocate to the South School for the next school year when sixth- raders move to Thomaston.

The board voted unanimously Thursday night to offer the city the McLain School, which was built in 1891.

Superintendent John McDonald said the closure of the Lura Libby School in Thomaston, which occurred last summer, and the closures of McLain, Gilford Butler and Owls Head Central will save the district $705,000 annually.

Board member Thomas Peaco of Rockland urged the district to work to inform the community over the two months. A formal public hearing on the bond will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16, at Oceanside High School.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Jan 12, 2017 22:58

Steve, Great Point!  It is not about the buildings, it is about the quality of education.  It is pretty sad when the board and school administration wants to hold ONE meeting 12 days before they vote to spend $23.3 million.  Why even bother to hold a meeting?  Seriously.    

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jan 09, 2017 10:11

Education has never been about the buildings, it's about the quality of teachers.  let's start focusing on the quality of education and less on the buildings.  Yes Mary "back in the day" we learned in old brick and mortar structures that are still standing.  The conversation in Rockland right now is about community.  Think about all the neighborhood schools that are gone now. Instead we buss our children miles away  to achieve "consolidation".  Think we need a new vision about the quality of education when we layoff teachers and close programs so we can afford a new building.

Posted by: Sonja Sleeper | Jan 07, 2017 07:54

How much with this add to the annual tax bill? Seems a shame with falling enrollments to spend so much, hoping that if you build it they will come?  Problem is we need to have jobs and a viable affordable economy and community for people to want to stay and raise a family.


Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 06, 2017 16:10

I agree Margaret! When I went to the Girls High School in Boston, Mass. it was brick and solid with 3 floors, an elevator and it was more than a brick hundred year old when it finally was torn down as consolidated schools came into being. Now I know to the youngsters, we oldies are constantly saying "back in the day". But buildings now consist of boards and plaster. Perhaps taking a look at construction when building new would save taxpayers good money. Just saying!

Posted by: Margaret McCrea | Jan 06, 2017 09:01

When will the day come when we learn to maintain and improve our schools as necessary on an annual basis to keep up with current standards rather than wait for obsolescence to creep in, causing the buildings to be torn down and replaced or turned over to the towns in which they sit. The school I attended many years ago was built in 1932 and has managed to survive to the present, still efficiently serving its school population. Seems rather wasteful to constantly replace existing buildings, especially when student populations are so variable. Small savings in school closures are boasted on one hand while million dollar expenditures are held in the other.


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