ASHLAND, Maine — SAD 32 Superintendent Gehrig Johnson acknowledged that the district has received questions about the status of the construction of the new middle-high school in the wake of budget cuts in Augusta and the overall economic climate in the state.
But the superintendent reassured residents Thursday that construction of the facility is on schedule.
The district consists of the towns of Ashland, Garfield Plantation, Masardis, Oxbow Plantation and Portage Lake.
The new 87,000-square-foot building has a $22 million price tag and is scheduled to open in 2010.
“Construction is moving along very well,” Johnson, who also is the superintendent of SAD 1, said Thursday. “The project is moving along on schedule and we are about 30 percent into it.”
Right now, the framework is nearly complete and Johnson said the building should be enclosed by fall.
The new school will house the district’s more than 350 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Right now, students in pre-kindergarten through grade five attend Ashland Central School on Oak Street while students in grades six through 12 attend Ashland Middle-High School on Hayward Street.
The new two-story school is being constructed in an area where the Ashland High School soccer and baseball fields are located. The athletic fields will be relocated behind the new building.
The complex will be energy-efficient and accessible to the handicapped. A new auditorium will hold more students and an expanded gymnasium will hold 520 people. The existing gym does not meet state standards, so when Ashland holds tournament games, the games must be played in a neighboring school district.
New safety features, including a driveway with separated bus drop-offs, also will be a feature of the new school.
The community has thrown its support behind the construction of the facility. Last February, taxpayers voted 789-38 in favor of building the new school. The initiative has been in the planning stages for several years, and the state Department of Education approved the project and its design in 2007.
“The state approved this two years ago and they set the money aside back then,” said Johnson. “We have been asked if the budget or economy has affected the school, but it has not.”
The old school had mold, mildew and asbestos problems, and the buildings were not accessible to the handicapped.
SAD 32 was seventh on the state list for school construction and was approved because of the bad condition of the existing buildings.
The state is paying for 93 percent of the cost, and the communities are picking up the rest of the tab. The estimated increase in the average mill rate for education will be 0.96 mills. A resident with a $70,000 residence, for instance, should expect to see an increase of approximately $67 a year in property taxes.
Construction will continue throughout the year and into 2010.