Oxford Hills School District to reapply for funding to construct new schools

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By Leslie H. Dixon

PARIS — SAD 17 officials will reapply for state funding to construct a new middle school and file a new application for funding to construct a new elementary school to replace Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris, Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

NEW SCHOOL? — SAD 17 officials intend to reapply for state funds to construct a new middle school to replace the existing campus in Paris.
NEW SCHOOL? — SAD 17 officials intend to reapply for state funds to construct a new middle school to replace the existing campus in Paris.

The state Department of Education announced last month that a new application cycle is underway for major capital construction projects and are due by April 14, 2017.

The district was originally ranked 26 on the last priority cycle list in 2010-11 funding cycle for a new middle school.

Jamie Logan, communications director at the Maine Department of Education, said the project is now 10th in line for funding under the current cycle of funding because the state has already funded 16 of the top projects on the list. The question is whether there will be any future funding for projects on the 2010-11 priority list.

Logan said the determination is left to the state Board of Education and is based on the available debt limit.

“Right now we are close to the debt limit of $126,000,000 for major capital school construction,” Logan said.

If a school applied during the last cycle in 2010-11, officials will need to reapply if they wish to be included in this application cycle. A new priority list will be generated by the department, which will review completed applications and create a “needs-based” initial priority list, and then a final priority list and an approved projects list.

Logan said placement on the old list will not guarantee the same placement or placement at all on the new list.

“We hope that our split campus and continued structural and program needs will rate the middle school in the top 10 but that will be determined by the state,” Colpitts told the Advertiser Democrat. “Agnes Gray has many structural and program needs. It remains to be seen if the state will build a new school for just 130 students.”

In 2013, school officials hired Harriman Architects and Engineers in Auburn to do a feasibility study into alternatives to address overcrowding and other issues at Oxford Middle School on Pine Street in Paris.

The recommendations were to renovate the school, remove the portable classrooms, use alternative community-based facilities or build a new middle school.

At that time, the estimated costs for building and/or renovating the building was set at $21 million and $23 million, respectively.

Because school officials knew their chance at getting funded within a few years was low, the school district decided to remove the seven portables in front of the middle school campus and lease space at the Madison Avenue building in Oxford to create two campuses.

The lease allowed the school to eliminate the portables that were installed about 25 years ago at the middle school complex. In 2013, the costs to replace the portables was estimated at $1 million for a lease/purchase agreement for all seven, or between $105,000 and $350,000 in local money to renovate them.

Since that time, students have been split between the north and south campus and an innovative educational program was developed to make the situation work best.

SAD 17 was originally listed as 26 on the 2010-11 rating cycle priority list for Oxford Middle School out of a list of 71 school districts that applied. At that time, the application had a total point score of 121.64 as compared to the first ranked 144.67 for an elementary school in Corinth.

Local area schools on the current list include Fryeburg’s Charles A. Snow School ranked 5, Lewiston’s Martel School ranked 8, Auburn’s Edward Little High School ranked 16, Lewiston’s James Longley School ranked 20 and Lisbon’s Lisbon High School, ranked 27 just behind SAD 17.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net