2016-11-30 / Front Page

Enthusiastic ‘yes’ for Sanford school vote

Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — Nearly all of the 50 to 60 people in the gym raised their hands in an enthusiastic ‘yes’ straw vote Tuesday to allow school officials to continue their work on a state-funded project to renovate existing school buildings to provide a new elementary school and a new middle school.

Next step? The building committee, school officials and architects will put their heads together on a concept design, destined for another straw poll in April, followed by a city-wide referendum vote on the proposal, scheduled for June 13. In the meantime, they’ll present their current findings to the Department of Education for their approval of the site plan.

If the plan is approved, the current Sanford High School would become a middle school for grades five through eight. The current junior high school would be renovated into a 500-student elementary school, and Margaret Chase Smith School, which currently educated 360 students in kindergarten through grade three, would be significantly expanded, making room for about 550 PreK through grade four students.

The two remaining older elementary schools — Lafayette and Willard would close.

While there were no cost estimates available at Tuesdays’ straw poll, Superintendent David Theoharides said the goal is for the project most if not all state-funded.

Sanford in 2011 learned it had come in second on the state’s construction list for a new high school and regional technical center. That construction is underway and the new building will be ready for students in the fall of 2018.

Also in 2011, the state placed Lafayette, Willard and Emerson schools on their list for state construction funding. Emerson has since closed, because it needed significant renovations — including a new roof — to continue to operate. And with the current high school soon to be available, Sanford officials began to think about how it could be re-purposed.

“This is a huge opportunity for Sanford,” said Theoharides.

If the plan achieves all approvals, it will mean renovations will be completed and the schools opened in phases, with a view for all work to be completed by 2020. Theoharides said MCS School renovation and expansion would take the most time.

The closure of the two small elementary schools and the transformation of the current junior high school into an elementary school will mean Sanford will have three PreK through grade four schools — with the ability to provide similar programs in all of them, which can’t happen now due to space and other constraints.

“We want to bring consistency, so all (students) will have the same opportunity,” Theoharides said.

“It’s exciting,” said Lynda Butts, whose son Micah attends Margaret Chase Smith School now, and would be a student in the new middle school if the project moves forward.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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