Public weighs in on proposed Caribou school

8 years ago

Second gym suggested; tax impact on member towns questioned 

     CARIBOU, Maine — Members of the public listened and gave feedback as representatives from RSU 39, Caribou Parks and Recreation, and PDT Architects spoke about the possibility of a new school and park in the community.

     While the project is currently in the concept design phase, the building committee needs public input at this stage to ensure the school fits community needs. Nothing is currently approved, but Caribou could receive a new school with no local tax burden.

     A completely state-funded preK-8 facility would be 113,000 square feet and fit up to 750 students. The school would also include four classrooms per grade level, dedicated middle school science rooms, project-based learning rooms, learning stations, an innovation center for technical education and robotics, a learning commons, a gym with bleachers, a multipurpose room, a stage, and a cafeteria.

     Since the school would be built on land currently known as Teague Park (if the site is approved) Caribou could also receive a new park with four tennis courts, two basketball courts, a softball field, a multipurpose field, as well as a play area, park building, and park storage building.

     The building committee held the April 27 public meeting to discuss the aforementioned features with residents, and to see if there is interest on funding additional components of the school via local tax dollars.

     David Martin, deputy mayor of Caribou, asked about the cost and location of an additional gym.

     Alan Kuniholm of PDT Architects told Martin that, since the current gym is 5,700 square feet, and construction is roughly $200 per square foot, an extra gym would cost roughly $1.1 million.

     Evan Graves, a physical education instructor at Teague Park School, stressed the importance of a second gym at the new school.

     “The Teague Park gym is busy throughout the entire school day,” said Graves. “School assemblies are currently tight for Teague Park and their gym is about 5,000 square feet. Pageant practice happens in there, along with Relay for Life fundraisers and talent show rehearsals. It’s used all the time, as it should be.

     “I’d also like to reiterate the fitness of our kids, who are our future. I can’t stress the importance of having two gymnasiums here. We get one chance to do this right, and it would be good to have that space utilized,” Graves said.

     “One of my questions would be: should the gyms be separate?” Kuniholm added. “Envision this, if you add another gym, would you want to make an operable wall that you could open up and seat half the community, close to 10,000 square feet, with four half courts or two full courts?”

     Limestone Selectperson Melissa Devoe was concerned that, since Limestone and Stockholm are part of RSU 39, their local taxes would help fund additional aspects of a school that their children could not use, and also asked about whether or not the additional aspects of the project would be paid over time or all in one lump sum that brings the mill rate up for one year and back down the next.

     RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak explained that any additional components of the school would be paid for over taxes that are stretched over 20 years.

     “Stockholm and Limestone will save over the long-term,” said Doak. “When you tear down three buildings and consolidate operation and maintenance costs, you will see some savings. We’re working on those numbers right now and will have some numbers soon here. It is an economic driver for the city of Caribou. New schools are not common in northern Maine.”

     Looking ahead, the schedule for the project is to start developing a budget in June or July once the concept design is complete. Then, if the project receives site and concept design approval from the State Board of Education by October, it will go to referendum in November of this year, and voters will have the option to add any components, such as a new gym, to the project.

     If the November referendum passes, then construction will start in September 2017 and students will be attending the school by September of 2019 or 2020.

     NOTE:  Larger, higher quality photos of the sketches shown here are avaliable on our Facebook page.  Like the Aroostook Republican & News today.