The sun shines on the entrance to Clint Ritchie Gymnasium at Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan in this January 2019 file photo. Credit: File

School officials from nine towns in eastern Hancock County are closing in on final plans to build a new middle and high school in Sullivan.

The 103,000-square-foot building would replace the existing Sumner Memorial High School on Route 1 and would serve students in grades 6 through 12 in Regional School Unit 24. The school district includes the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Mariaville, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor.

Officials in the district have been working on plans for a new school for the past two years, after the state Department of Education said it would provide financial support to the district to build a new 6-12 school to replace the existing high school, which was built in the 1950s.

RSU 24 Superintendent Michael Eastman said Tuesday that because the district board has not yet arrived at a final design for the school, it would be “premature” to say what it might cost. He said the district board and state officials are still negotiating over what aspects of the project the state is willing to fund, but added that it can be described as a “multimillion dollar” project.

The RSU board hopes to have a final plan to present to state officials by mid-March. A final cost estimate for the project will be available by the time the RSU holds a public meeting and straw poll on the plan at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 20, at Sumner high school.

The new school building will be constructed at the same property where Sumner is now but farther back from Route 1 on the site of an existing baseball field. The existing school building will be demolished after the new building is complete, and an athletic field will takes its place.

The school district had to secure the National Park Service’s approval to build on the site of the existing baseball field, according to Eastman, because a park service grant funded the baseball field. A new baseball field that will be available for public use will be constructed on the east side of the existing high school building as part of the overall project, he said.

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Eastman said the purpose of including a new district-wide middle school in the project is to consolidate more of the district’s operations with the goal of reducing costs. Approximately 240 students attend Sumner high school now, he said, but the new school will be built to serve 500 students.

He said that the number of all students enrolled in RSU 24, which currently is roughly 870 students, is not expected to change significantly over the next decade. None of the district’s four existing K-8 schools is projected to close as a result of the new 6-12 school, he said. They simply will become K-5 schools with their middle school-age students attending the new Sumner school in Sullivan.

The RSU 24 board met Tuesday night to discuss possible design elements in the building plans and to hear an update from the project architect, Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects or Portland, about the latest feedback on the plans that he has received from state education officials. Steuben stone sculptors Jesse Salisbury and Kazumi Hoshino also met Tuesday night with the board to discuss possible artistic design elements that could be included at the front entrance of the new school.

District officials say the goal is to have the new building completed by the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....