CAMDEN — School Administrative District 28 (Camden-Rockport K-8) administrators and school board members gathered with the public Jan. 29 to talk about next steps for the sprawling Camden-Rockport Middle School complex, and reviewed possible concepts, including pulling down most of the existing buildings and constructing anew.
The forum was held in the cafeteria of the middle school, with architects with the firm Oak Point Associates, of Biddeford and Portsmouth, N.H., on hand to present sketches.
Oak Point has a track record with the Midcoast having designed a school on Vinalhaven, as well as the Lincolnville Central School.
Mathew Dailey, School Administrative District 28 (Camden-Rockport K-8) School Board chairman, initiated the discussion, presenting background to those present.
“The school was built over time with a lot of different pieces, but there really hasn’t been a comprehensive plan as to how it all comes together,” he said. “In the last couple of years, the building has become larger then we need. It’s expensive to operate, expensive to maintain. We are looking at what we want out of this building for the next 50 years. What does it need in terms of curriculum? What does it need in terms of school population, as well as energy efficiency and community needs?”
Rob Tillotson, architect, professional engineer and president of Oak Point Associates, gave a brief overview.
“We will present a number of ideas relating to additions to the building and what it would cost to bring it up to code,” he said. “We have a number of different ideas as to how to do that. We have four different options. One is renovation of the existing building, one is renovation of a slightly downsized building with additions to make it more efficient, one would be a new building separate from the Mary E. Taylor building, and one with an attachment to the Mary Taylor building.”
It was the overall consensus of those present that the Mary E. Taylor building stay as it is historically significant. The different concepts included the building in different capacities from school rooms to administrative offices for SAD 28 and the Five Town CSD (Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport), which oversees Camden Hills Regional High School.
Tillotson said the cost differential isn’t that great to leave the Taylor building attached or not attached.
Elaine Nutter, SAD 28 and Five Town CSD superintendent, said: “The board has been in discussion about the middle school for many years before I got here, three years ago now. We put the fees for architectural services in our budget last year. That was one of the board priorities to develop a vision and new plan for the middle school.”
Nutter said the forum was the first chance to see ideas that had gone through a 19-member design committee.
“I’ve seen the concepts,” she said. “We’ve done an in-house, 10-year projection and we certainly expect our enrollment to remain steady, maybe even rise a bit, based on our projections. I know some schools see a decreasing enrollment, but we do not see that. We expect to stay where we are right now.”
Nutter said there will be a meeting Feb. 6 at which the committee will consider the input, review plans and discuss further the costs associated with the various concepts. The public is invited to that meeting, which is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. at the Bus Barn at Lions Lane, in Camden.
“And if not, back to the drawing board,” she said. “Everything is in pencil at this point.”
Energy efficiency was a big concern. Currently the building stands at 120,000 square feet. A new building would be roughly 80,000 square feet and have the energy efficiency to provide even heat and air circulation.
The existing heating system is apparently widely disproportionate; in one room the windows are opened because it is too hot, while in another room, students might be wearing coats to stay warm.
Expenses associated with renovating the existing complex involve improving existing mechanical systems and bringing the building up to code would be large, and not ensure that future needs of the school would be met, architects said.
It might, they said, be more cost effective to construct a new building.
Tillotson said Oak Hill did not want to say which option would be best, because the school belonged to the Camden-Rockport area. They presented a number of concepts that would allow a choice that best fits the needs of the school system and the public. All the concepts carry roughly the same price tag with perhaps a 20 percent differential between the different plans.
Lynda Chilton, SAD 28 board member, said it was clear to her after the presentation and discussion that a new building was the best option.
“I think that will be hard to swallow, but in the long term there will be efficiencies in energy and education,” she said. “It will also give us opportunities to architecturally explore new trends in education. If a new building supports that, then that’s a win for us. I really like the idea of keeping Mary E. Taylor as a separate entity for the community as architectural history and I also like the idea of being able to keep the kids in class rooms while the construction is going on. We’re just not going to be lucky enough for someone to give us a building for the kids to be in while new construction is going on.”
Chilton said she thought all the variations were great for various reasons, but felt in her heart that new construction was the way to go. Chilton said she planned to be on the communications committee to help educate the public in days and weeks to come as the process evolved.
She said she was all for great school systems because the community benefits and it would help make people want to move into the area. She said people look at the education system when considering a move and a new school would only help the area to put its best foot forward.