FAIRFIELD – The area school district construction committee has identified a suitable site for a new school building and will now conduct a full assessment of its potential.
Kathryn Cogan of CHA Architecture, a Portland-based firm that is working with the district on the project, made a presentation Thursday to the Maine State Administrative District 49 board of directors.
Several of the district’s school buildings are old and in need of replacement. The Maine Department of Education has identified Fairfield Elementary School as the state’s number one priority for school construction.
The construction of a new school also involved considering consolidation – moving students from the three elementary schools in the district and the primary school into one building.
The construction committee assessed the current school buildings as well as ways to integrate the new building into the neighborhood, Cogan said. Benton Elementary turned out to be in relatively good condition. With that in mind, the committee developed a plan to renovate the Benton building for Kindergarten to Grade 2, as well as an expanded Kindergarten program. The new building will be used to serve levels three to six.
For the new site, Cogan said, the committee considered about 20 locations, including one already owned by the district, but that option was ruled out because the site did not have a large enough developable area.
The committee then contacted various landowners to assess their interest in selling their property. This narrowed the search down to one location: a lot next to Benton Elementary. It meets all of the committee’s criteria, including easy access to public services; and because it’s next door to another school, it’s considered a “magnet” location, which makes it preferable to Maine DOE.
Cogan said the DOE has indicated that part of the project funds could be used to improve current traffic around Benton Elementary, particularly in areas where parents and bus drivers pick up and drop off students.
The next step, Cogan said, will be assessments by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation, a traffic study, and more.
“All of this work has to take place so that we can demonstrate and prove that this is a good, viable site,” Cogan said.
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