Committee supports 574-seat HS auditorium in new proposal

Decision on middle school addition still under consideration
Mon, 10/31/2022 - 6:30pm

The Building Exploratory Committee still has one crucial decision remaining in plans for a new school campus. On Oct. 26, the committee debated pros and cons of final plans for a $76 million school expansion project. The committee decided to include plans for a $3 million-plus auditorium with seating for 574. One proposal would have “lopped off”the balcony which seats 174, and reduce auditorium space to a 300-person capacity. Lavallee and Brensinger architects Joe Britton and Lance Whitehead explained the proposal would not save “significant dollars” and would result in a lot of empty space. 

Architects described the current high school’s auditorium, with seating for 200, more as a “lecture hall.” As members discussed the auditorium, a consensus was reached to propose a full-sized one. The committee believes a full-sized hall has potential to serve both school and community functions. 

Committee member Abby Jones supported the decision. She reported about her conversation with Boothbay Region YMCA Arts and Humanities Director Emily Mirabile. Jones sought her opinion about whether there was a need for a large hall. “Y Arts buses kids to Damariscotta for summer shows. (Mirabile) envisions a need for a community theater and collaborating with the school as the Y currently does for practice and performances,” she said.

Whitehead explained technology accounted for most of the auditorium’s cost, and likely would attract community donations. “This creates a unique fundraising opportunity because most auditoriums have a name attached,” he said. 

The committee has a Nov. 30 deadline to present architects’ and engineers’ final plans for the renovation project. So, with time running out, committee members endorsed a full-size auditorium. One of the last remaining big questions facing the committee is whether to include a middle-school addition to the current elementary school for grades 6,7 and 8. Architects estimated the proposal will cost $3 million to $3.5 million. This would bump the total price tag to just under $80 million. 
 
Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Bob Kahler told committee members the addition had both educational and cultural benefits. Kahler noted the addition would include new science labs and classrooms and create a swing space for a maker space along with other opportunities preparing students for both high school and post-graduation. “Our middle school students would benefit the most from having an environment to apply foundational learning skills they’ve learned leading up to middle school in an environment designed for maximizing learning in the 21st century,” he said. 
 
The new high school would be about 105,000 square feet. It would connect to the lower level of the elementary school. Boothbay Region Elementary School will undergo substantial renovations of the 11,300 square foot space. The committee is hoping for a May 2023 vote, and completion date of 2026. The current high school would be demolished once the new facility is finished. 
 
An update on the project is here.
 
The committee meets next at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30 in the high school library.