At a July 25 special workshop meeting, the School Committee voted (4-0, Wright and Phillips absent) to request $300,000 in seed money from the Town Council to proceed with planning for the expansion and renovation of the existing high school. The funds would be used to hire professional engineering and architectural services.
Although Superintendent Heather Perry had hoped to bring the request before the Council in August, she said after meeting with Town Manager David Cole on July 28, “the likelihood is now that this request will not go to the Town Council until September at the earliest.” In mid-August, School Committee chair Darryl Wright and Town Council chair Michael Phinney will meet with Perry and Cole “to discuss and map out a timeline.”
At a joint workshop with the Town Council on June 27, a consulting firm presented the results of a feasibility study that included three options. The least expensive option, renovation and expansion of the existing facility with an estimated cost of $50 million, received positive comments from council members. However, they expressed some concern over the cost and did not take a formal vote. After discussion about whether or not the Town Council had endorsed moving in this direction, the School Committee voted to request the seed money.
In addition to concerns about the cost of renovating the high school, Town Council chair Mike Phinney has raised questions about the need for expansion based on enrollment predictions. In 1994, the high school, which was built in 1959, was renovated to accommodate 750 students. Phinney noted that early in this century the facility had as many as 900 students, which is close to the 955 number projected over the next decade. Gorham, however, is one of the fastest growing towns in Maine with acres of undeveloped land and school enrollment projections are at best uncertain.