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Caribou school may not open until November due to safety issues

CARIBOU, Maine — Construction and safety concerns have pushed the opening of the new Caribou Community School into November, RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak said Tuesday.

Doak informed the public in an Oct. 6 statement that, due to numerous factors outside the administration’s control, the school’s opening is now delayed until sometime next month out of concerns for the safety of staff and students.

“It is with great frustration that I am writing this notice to you today,” Doak said in the letter. “After multiple weeks of trying to organize the startup of Caribou Community School for October 19, 2020, we find ourselves falling short again with the opening of our beautiful new school building.”

Doak detailed delays with heating plant completion, commissioning of the building, test reports from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and no issuance of a certificate of occupancy from the Caribou City’s Code Enforcement office. 

The heating plant, Doak wrote, is now projected for completion at the end of the month, adding that lack of heating is a safety issue for anyone in the building. 

The commissioning, which the superintendent said is a test that verifies all equipment in a new building is designed, installed and working correctly, was scheduled for the beginning of the week, but the air and ventilation equipment company was not present on the site during this time.

“Building occupancy may be allowed with just some commissioning completed but with COVID-19 it would be a risk to allow the use of this building without proper air ventilation,” Doak wrote.

Though the State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted a full test of all fire and safety systems, those reports are not yet completed either.

“The building is not ready for students or teachers so we must maintain our remote learning model until further notice,” he wrote.

Looking ahead, Doak said RSU 39 will continue working with CHA Architects and Bowman Constructors to establish a new start date in November. He said the public will be notified as soon as a new start date can be agreed upon by all parties, adding that RSU 39 will also release weekly updates after each construction meeting on Thursdays to ensure the public is notified of the school’s status on a regular basis.

“We all look forward to the day when all RSU 39 citizens, families, students, and staff can celebrate the opening of this amazing facility,” said Doak.

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