GREENVILLE, Maine — If Greenville is to shave school costs by closing the Nickerson Elementary School and moving its pupils to the Greenville High and Middle School, it likely will have to invest in several million dollars’ worth of improvements to the latter building.
The School Committee is looking to reduce costs by eliminating the upkeep and maintenance of the Nickerson building. WBRC Architects-Engineers of Bangor is helping the committee develop a long-range plan.
“Right now the building committee is at the extreme early stages of capital improvement planning,” Union 60 Superintendent Heather Perry said this week. “We’re very concerned and aware of both the needs of the building, the needs of the students, the needs of the taxpayers, and we’re attempting to do our best to balance those.”
Of the options, the committee has been leaning toward moving kindergarten through grade one pupils onto the first ground floor of the middle and high school, also known as the basement level, according to Perry. These pupils must be able to get in and out of the building directly, so much of the renovation would be done on that level, she said. The older elementary pupils would be housed elsewhere in the building.
In addition to the classrooms for the younger pupils, the basement level also would be home to the administrative offices and the shared instructional spaces such as the library and art room. The kitchen would remain in place, but would be enclosed to eliminate the noise.
“We’re looking at doing it in a way that will last for another 50 years,” Perry said.
Although the Louis Oakes building, which houses the high and middle school, is structurally sound, its plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation systems are in desperate need of an upgrade, Perry said. Those upgrades must be made in order for the move to become a viable option, she said.
The only problem is that the “very, very rough estimates” peg the cost of such a project between $5 million and $6 million, which includes groundwork, she said. The architects and the committee are now defining the costs for a more accurate figure, Perry said. Those figures do not address improvements to the gymnasium, which is housed in a separate building, she said.
Although Perry said she would try to secure state education funds to help with the renovation, she doubted the school would qualify. The state requires a minimum of 300 students to meet the qualifications for capital improvement funds and Union 60 has a population of 242, she said.
Therefore, Perry expects the costs would be funded through a combination of federal grants, local bonds and capital fund-raising. She hoped the work could begin in 2011-12.
“This is all very rough planning right now,” Perry stressed. There will be many public hearings and ample opportunity for residents to comment and provide feedback and ideas. At the same time, ideas will be solicited by the town for the future use of the Nickerson building, should the move be made.