GREENVILLE, Maine — School officials are moving forward on a plan to close Nickerson Elementary School and to consolidate kindergarten through grade 12 in the Louis Oakes school building within the next few years.
A straw poll taken by school and town officials, who met last week to discuss the proposal, supported that move.
All three of the town’s school buildings — the Oakes building, the Nickerson school and the gymnasium — have major capital construction needs, Greenville Superintendent Heather Perry said Friday. In addition, the community has a declining pupil enrollment and has space in the Oakes building for all of the pupils, with space remaining should enrollment increase, she said.
“Wouldn’t it be better to focus our attentions on one building, do it right, and basically in the long haul save the taxpayers money because they’d be investing their money in one building versus the others?” Perry asked.
The improvements needed to the Oakes school to make the move are estimated to cost $7.5 million.
Perry said that at some point, the school committee will ask the taxpayers for a bond. Before that is done, however, several public hearings will be held to inform residents about the proposal and the costs, the first of which is set for 7 p.m. June 15. Tours of the Oakes and Nickerson buildings will be available at 6 p.m. that day.
WBRC architects of Bangor was hired to work with school officials on the project, according to Perry. She said the committee was so pleased with the firm’s work thus far that it agreed to retain it to continue the project.
Those who met last week discussed asking for the bond either at a special town meeting in September or the annual June town meeting in 2010. It is expected residents also will have to vote to close the school.
The consensus of the group was to continue to move forward diligently, to make sure all the needed research is done and the finances outlined before a town meeting vote is scheduled, Perry said.
“We need to make sure we have taxpayers’ support through public hearings, we know exactly what we will be asking taxpayers for in bonds versus what is going to be funded federally through grants and-or through private fundraising,” the superintendent said.
Fundraising for the project has begun and Perry said she is seeking federal grants. “Our hope is that we can dramatically reduce, through federal grant funds and fundraising, the amount that we’re going to be asking taxpayers,” she said.
The gymnasium’s needs are not included in the $7.5 million project, Perry said, because school officials are tackling some of the projects now to keep the building functional. Work will be done on the gym floor this summer and the roofing and bleacher needs have been identified. “Those are things we know need to be done and we’re just going to continue to chew away at those,” she said.