UPDATE, JUly 2018
A brief history of the challenges and solutions
Since 2008, student enrollment in Yarmouth Schools has increased more than 17%, from 1,393 nine years ago to the 2017-18 student count of 1,636. Two separate studies by independent researchers indicate that this trend is not going to end soon, and by 2027 Yarmouth may see enrollment of approximately 1,970 students. This is significantly higher than the total school building capacity and requires immediate attention.
To address these concerns, the School Committee formed a Facilities Assessment Committee. After a year of working with architects and engineers from Harriman, the Facilities Assessment Committee identified six options to address the facilities needs of the district, recommending “Option 4”, which calls for:
- 1.An expansion at Rowe School to accommodate enrollment growth in Kindergarten and Grade 1, as well as address the likelihood that the State will be mandating that local school districts become responsible for administering programs for 3- and 4-year olds who are currently served by Child Development Services.
- 2.An expansion at Yarmouth Elementary School to accommodate enrollment growth, as well as a complete renovation of the existing facility to bring it up to current standards and ensure its viability for decades to come. As part of this project Grade 5 will be relocated to YES, reducing the scope of the construction project needed at the Middle School.
- 3.A small expansion at Harrison Middle School to account for enrollment growth, allowing for the removal of the portable classrooms that have been on-site almost from the day the school opened.
- 4.An expansion at Yarmouth High School to account for enrollment growth and evolving programming (e.g. robotics and STEM).
The School Committee approved the formation of a Facilities Committee to continue this work and held four public forums throughout the 2017-2018 school year to explain the results of the study, share the options studied, and hear feedback from the community.
A difficult market creates rising costs
In early June, the Committee received very disappointing news. Due to growth in the southern Maine market, an unstable labor force, a lack of qualified bidders on construction projects, and rising materials costs across the country, the proposed project is no longer close to the $35m target that had been identified earlier in the year. In fact, the projected costs exceeded $60m. The Committee set about adjusting the plans and prioritizing the schools’ needs further.
On July 12, the Facilities Committee presented a recommendation to the School Committee that a two-part question be asked of the voters in November. Although the wording will evolve over the next few weeks, the general format will be as follows:
- 1.Do you approve a bond in the amount of $39.8m for additions and renovations at Yarmouth Elementary School and Yarmouth High School, with additional capital improvement work at Harrison Middle School and Rowe School?
- 2.If Question 1 passes, do you also approve a bond in the amount of $12.2m for additions and renovations at Harrison Middle School and Rowe School, with additional capital improvement work at Yarmouth High School?
Because the initial proposal was estimated at less than $40m, the Committee felt it was important to present a plan for this amount to the voters, even though recent escalations in construction costs result in a proposal that does not fully meet the enrollment needs of the district. By breaking the question into two parts, the voters have the option to delay the start of the second set of projects, though it is clear that these projects must be completed within the next few years.
Yarmouth Elementary School is the oldest building in the district. A major renovation of the existing building will provide the upgrades needed to keep the school viable for decades to come. Enrollment growth at YES continues to be significant, requiring a large addition of classroom and core spaces. In order to avoid a similar expansion at the Middle School, it was decided to shift Grade 5 from HMS to YES as part of this project.
As illustrated below, the entire existing building (lightly shaded) would receive upgrades to all systems, while a large expansion would provide for the needed additional classrooms and core spaces. By renovating and expanding the existing school, the Committee was able to reduce the overall cost of these projects significantly (as compared to construction of a new school). Increased parking and improved security features will complete the transformation of YES into a modern facility.
The capacity of the expanded school will be 689, with a projected enrollment in 2027 of 612.
The High School is the only school in the district that does not provide a security vestibule connected to the main office for school-day entrance into the building. By relocating the main entrance to the Southeast side of the building, a more secure entrance is created. An efficient plan for enrollment growth includes removing the fitness room from the center of the plan, allowing for expansion of the cafeteria. The fitness room will be recreated next to the gymnasium. Expansion of the performing arts areas will take place next to the Performing Arts Center, and a two-story classroom addition will extend off the current academic wing on the Northeast side of the building.
Areas shaded in orange on this diagram indicate spaces that will be re-assigned or renovated for new purposes. Moving the athletic offices to new spaces next to the gymnasium will provide space in the middle of the plan for needed guidance counselors and social workers, while other spaces throughout the school will be reassigned for purposes such as special education, robotics, and regular classrooms.
The capacity of the expanded school will be slightly more than 700, with a projected 2027 enrollment of 653.
Yarmouth High School – First floor
While keeping the total cost for Question 1 under $40m, the Committee was able to include in the proposal the replacement of Rowe School’s classroom toilets, which are outdated, undersized, and often out of service. Also, the original roof at Harrison Middle School is slated for replacement with funds from this bond. The estimated cost of these projects stands at $39.8m as of today.
At Rowe School, additional classroom space is needed to handle growing enrollment. By September of this year, a portable unit will be installed on the site, with a seventh kindergarten classroom moving into what is the current art room. Music classes have already been displaced from a dedicated space, moving into the library. These shared spaces do not provide students with the high-quality experience expected of our schools. Adding to this dilemma is the call for local school districts to take over programming that is currently provided by Child Development Services (CDS) of Maine. This could bring an additional 60 students to Rowe School in the next two years. This plan does not add space for public pre-k programming, which is a separate program from CDS.
To provide the spaces necessary to handle these additional students, Rowe School must grow by 7 classrooms, along with additional rooms for instructional support services and larger core spaces such as the library and cafeteria/gymnasium.
In the illustration below, the darker shaded areas represent new construction. The additional instructional spaces would extend off the main corridor of the building, pushing the school’s boundaries onto the edge of Royal River Park. The cafeteria would be expanded off the front corner of the building, closest to Route 1.
William Rowe School
The capacity of the renovated school will be 266 in Kindergarten and Grade 1 with a projected 2027 enrollment of 228. The school would also accommodate up to 64 CDS students.
The Middle School will be the least impacted facility in terms of construction. By moving Grade 5 to Yarmouth Elementary School, the projected enrollment at HMS will drop to 479 in 2027. Currently, two portable classrooms bring the capacity to 525, while approximately 540 students are enrolled. By adding a small addition of classrooms to one end of the building and relocating music classes to new, appropriately-sized spaces at the other end of the building, the facility will meet the needs of up to 525 students.
Frank Harrison Middle School – First floor
Included in the $12.2m estimate for this question is roof replacement at Yarmouth High School, which is likely to be necessary before these projects are completed.
We will be scheduling more public forums beginning in September, where we hope to see many of you.