BANGOR, Maine — The 10 schools that make up the Bangor School Department are anywhere from four decades to nearly a century old.
Every now and again, one or more of them invariably needs some measure of repair. As state funding for new school construction becomes more scarce and Bangor and other communities need to make do with what they have, maintenance becomes crucial.
“We’re tracking, at all times, the things that we’ve done recently and then we’re looking out 20 years to ask, ‘What can we expect to do going forward to keep our schools viable?’” Superintendent Betsy Webb said Friday. “Bangor has done so well at maintaining buildings to get the most out of them.”
Luckily, new construction isn’t the only option for state funding. The Department of Education has a grant program — the Qualified School Construction Bond program — in which school departments and districts can receive interest-free loans to make improvements.
Bangor recently received a loan of up to $7 million to complete various renovations at all of its schools. The School Committee and City Council both have approved the loan.
“It’s really the best and most economical way for us to make improvements,” Webb said. “It’s a good way to continue to maintain our buildings and manage the resources available to us.”
The projects include replacing the roof and gymnasium bleachers at Bangor High School, replacing aging heating and cooling system equipment, repairing and replacing ventilation systems and upgrading lighting.
Some of the projects, including the roof replacement at the high school, began this week and more will continue through the summer and beyond.
Webb said the best part about taking out the new loan is that it will not have a negative impact on the budget. In the last year, the School Department has fully paid off debt associated with an old loan and plans to spread out the new loan to apply the same amount each year.
The DOE bond program has been around awhile, but Webb said she couldn’t think of a time that Bangor has applied for funds in recent years.