New school in Brewer nearing completion

Brewer School Building Commitee members tour the new Brewer Community School on Parkway South on Friday.
Brewer School Building Commitee members tour the new Brewer Community School on Parkway South on Friday.
Posted Feb. 05, 2011, at 4:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 05, 2011, at 5:51 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — For 12 years now, Lanissa Nadeau, a music teacher with the Brewer School Department, has had to drive back and forth between the Brewer Middle School and the Brewer State Street School to teach all of her students.

Her classroom at one location is next to a noisy and chaotic cafeteria. At the other location, she teaches in a room not nearly big enough.

All of that will change for Nadeau and her students when they return for classes in the fall of 2011 to the 156,000-square-foot, two-story Brewer Elementary-Middle School being built at 92 Pendleton St.

“I am extremely excited,” said Nadeau. “And my students are too. They’re asking me to take pictures and fill them in on the progress being made here, which is very impressive.”

Nadeau shared her enthusiasm during an hourlong tour of the school on Friday being given to members of the city’s School Building Committee and other city officials. The school still is under construction, but according to Superintendent Daniel Lee, it is more than 80 percent complete.

“The design elements and the craftsmanship associated with this building are just impeccable,” boasted Lee as he led the tour.

Lee’s remark is an understatement. The building will replace four aging elementary schools as well as Brewer Middle School, and it will house approximately 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. The estimated $33.4 million facility will be the largest such building in the state once completed, and it meets the requirements for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which means it is certified as a “green” building.

On Friday, Lee showcased a school that he said has been in the making for five years and under construction for a year and a half. This wasn’t Lee’s first tour; Friday was significant though, as the interior of the building is beginning to take shape. It will have 71 classrooms, each with a 42-inch flat-screen television. One of the school’s primary design features, as Lee described it, separates age groups with theme-based wings that represent Maine’s history.

For instance, fourth-graders will attend classes in the “papermaking” wing, which will be painted in tones of green meant to represent the trees used to make paper. Other areas of the school will be dedicated to brick making, the Penobscot River, ice making and Maine’s maritime history.

This way, Lee said, not only will the separate wings help enrich the students’ experience at the school, but it also will help younger students navigate a building that is so large it would be easy for anyone to get lost.

However, what is perhaps most impressive about the building is its “green” technology. The heating system is designed to circulate fresh air with recycled heat — including body heat created by students and staff — into the independently controlled classrooms. Furthermore, the school’s design calls for an abundance of natural light, delivered by everything from the way the windows are shaped to skylights and solar tubes fixed into the ceiling that funnel light from the roof to the floors below.

Among other features shown to officials during Friday’s tour was the school’s performing arts center, where high ceilings will reach 22 feet and where 400 seats will allow spectators to watch school theater productions and other community events.

Lee also showed visitors the administrative wing, where records will be kept in a fireproof room and where students can see a community nurse or even receive dental services.

Additionally, the school cafeteria will feature hand-washing stations for students to ensure they clean up before eating, and leftover cafeteria food will be put in a compost garden on the school grounds. Art rooms will feature picture windows so “the students become a part of the art” said Pedersen. A media center with computer stations for students also will help link classrooms.

Lee also said safety was a major concern for school officials, and as a result, classroom doors have a locking feature and shatter-resistant glass. Certain entrances at the school also require pass-cards to open doors once classes are in session.

Steve Burton, a project manager with Nickerson & O’Day, the Bangor construction company that is building the school, said completion is expected in June or July. At that point, Lee added, tours will be given to the general public and furniture will be moved into the building in preparation for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

“This is important for Brewer; often when people think about moving they consider a city’s schools,” Lee said. “What’s more important is the fact that our new school will help to bring about positive changes in our curriculum and our kids.”

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