Thursday, January 30, 2003

CEHS renovation put off a year

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth school Board members will put off the renovation of Cape Elizabeth High School for a year if they can strike a deal with the Town Council to approve an expansion to the Pond Cove School.

As part of the deal, the board would like authorization to spend $200,000 for immediate repair work at the high school, including putting a new roof over the gymnasium.

The decision to delay the high school project was in response to pressure from the Town Council to keep costs down and the immediate need for additional space at Pond Cove for the kindergarten.

The high school renovation is estimated to cost $7.5 million.

The Pond Cove expansion, to provide room for the kindergarten and move it out of the high school, is expected to cost $1.5 million. Not doing the work at Pond Cove, however, could end up costing more than doing it because the schools would have to rent portables, board members said at a workshop meeting Tuesday.

“We’d like something approved this spring,” Superintendent Tom Forcella said.

Taking out a bond for the Pond Cove expansion this spring would not cause any real difference in debt service for the schools in the first year, according to Business Manager Pauline Aportria. The school is retiring nearly $116,000 in debt in 2003-2004 and would need to add $117,000 to cover the first payment for the Pond Cove work.

In 2004-2005, the schools will retire $27,500 in debt. Adding the Pond Cove work would cost $143,000 that year. In 2005-2006, the schools will retire $10,000 in debt, but a Pond Cove bond would cost $140,000 that year.

If actual construction did not begin by October of this year, the School Board would need portable classrooms at Pond Cove to handle the kindergartners. Those would cost $85,000 for the first year, including site preparation, and $35,000 each year they were used.

Because the board wants to move the kindergarten out of the high school, they are willing to negotiate with the Town Council about timing of the high school work.

“We’re giving up the rush on that,” Forcella said. “We understand it can’t be done” in the current economic conditions, said School Board Chairman Marie Prager.

Board member George Entwistle said the board should recommend that high school work begin immediately after the Pond Cove work finishes, because some of it deals with safety issues and making the school accessible to the handicapped.

Board member Kevin Sweeney was concerned about putting off the high school renovation for too long, but was willing to wait a year as long as no major problems occurred at the high school.

Prager said the board wants a decision “no later than May,” whether the council votes to approve the project on its own or sends it to town-wide referendum.

“We want them to approve the kindergarten project as immediately as they possibly can,” she said.