Little hope of school construction in near future

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Officials hope to secure state funding to resolve issues such as crowding at the Oxford Hills Middle School. This 2016 picture shows the front yard after the portable classrooms were removed and some of the students were moved to leased space in Oxford.

AUGUSTA — The state Board of Education has approved two school construction lists, cementing SAD 17’s placement on both, but providing little hope that breaking ground on the projects could happen soon.

The state Board of Education at its August 15 meeting approved  SAD 17 as priority 6 and 7 for the Agnes Gray Elementary School and Oxford Hills Middle School projects on the Major Capital Construction Priority List and 5th on the Integrated, Consolidated 9-16 Education Facility Priority List.

While the vote moves SAD 17’s elementary and middle school projects up the list, lack of state funding means there is little hope for a sort-term construction start date.

Although funding is not expected soon, Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the SAD 17 Board of Directors earlier this summer when the recommended list was issued that should the district remain at that level on the list, which it has, Oxford Hills Middle School and Agnes Gray Elementary School construction projects might be only a year or two away from state funding.

The list went through a 30-day appeal process waiting period this summer without an problems, said DOE spokeswoman Rachel Paling.

The district applied in March 2017 for funding for the two schools to alleviate problems ranging from inadequate space to lack of handicapped-accessibility. Some 75 school districts across the state also applied for funding.

The district was ranked 26 on the last priority list in 2010-11 for a new middle school, but that number had risen to 10th in line for funding because the state eventually funded the top 16 projects on the previous list.

Joint proposal

The second list approved by the state Board of Education, appears to be more favorable, but in fact has less chance than the other for funding any time soon, say officials.

“They are only funding one project, so although we are “on the list,” our project won’t be funded,” said SAD 17 Business Manager Cathy Coffey of the Integrated Integrated, Consolidated 9-16 Education Facility Priority list.

The joint proposal by the Oxford Hills School District and the Buckfield School District RSU 17/MSAD 17, RSU 10 (Buckfield/Hartford,) with the Region 11 Oxford Hills Technical School was ranked 5th out of 7 projects with 13 points.

The top project was submitted by MSAD 27, RSU 33/MSAD 33, Madawaska Public Schools, St. John Valley Technology Center received 181 points.

The Department of Education recommended adoption of the list based on the scoring of Part 1 and Part 2 applications, but only the three tops scorers – finalists – from the first part of the application process were asked to submit a second application.

Part 1 of the application focused primarily on identifying the partners in each project, it was due May 1, 2017, and was evaluated by a team at the Department of Education.

The opportunity allowed districts to partner and submit plans to create and/or upgrade education facilities integrated with a career and technical school, the University of Maine System, and the Maine Community College System.

Local officials were aware early on that their chances of advancing to the point of funding were nil at this time.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

Priority School District School Name Total Points
       
1 RSU 49/MSAD 49 Fairfield Primary School 137.69
2 RSU 54/MSAD 54 North Elementary School 124.60
3 RSU 10 Rumford Elementary School 115.19
4 Saco Public Schools Young School 114.65
5 RSU 14 Windham Middle School 111.27
6 RSU 17/MSAD 17 Agnes Gray School 110.33
7 RSU 17/MSAD 17 Oxford Hills Middle School 109.73