BELFAST, Maine — The local high school has seen better days, and school officials are asking taxpayers to support a major overhaul of the 51-year-old facility.
On their local ballots, voters in RSU 71, which includes Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville, will be asked whether they want the district to borrow up to $7.6 million to renovate Belfast Area High School.
“The building is showing its age, and it needs some attention quickly,” Superintendent Paul Knowles said Friday during a tour of the school.
Parts of the building have fallen into disrepair, prone to roof leaks and visits from rodents, while others are overcrowded or suffer from poor ventilation, Knowles said Friday.
The bond money would go toward improvements in several parts of the school. The crumbling concrete and steel entry canopy would be replaced, the pool resurfaced, cramped cafeteria expanded, kitchen overhauled, and stage and special education areas renovated. New ventilation systems would be added to improve temperature controls and air quality in the gymnasium and pool areas. The 1960s-era locker room with its rusted, dented lockers also would be updated.
The math wing, a newer addition to the high school, was poorly constructed and has seen significant problems, according to Knowles. That would be demolished and a two-story education space with eight classrooms built in its place. The other half of the building, including the art wing that was added about a decade ago and is in much better condition, will see few changes in the renovations, he said.
The district’s central office would move from its current location, a small building along Waldo Avenue, and relocate to the school. Shedding the central office building would help the district reduce costs long term, Knowles said.
For full details, visit the school district’s website.
The bond question is the result of a long process during which the school board, community members and students grappled over the best steps forward. The board considered a number of options, including a larger $10 million bond that would have replaced the school’s pool with a larger cafeteria and second-story classrooms.
The state recently opened up a new application cycle for districts that want to apply for major school construction projects, but the process of getting state funding and approval for a new school can take well over a decade.
“The board just recognized that this building needed work now,” Knowles said.
The district is already weighing the future of other schools in the district, particularly Gladys Weymouth Elementary School in Morrill, which is in dire need of repair or replacement.
If voters decide to reject the bond request, the project will be waylaid, and “the board will have to discuss what steps to take next,” Knowles said.
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