Maine DOE releases school construction list

Ranks needs in 71 school projects

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education presented its ranking of the pre-K-12 school projects with the most significant needs to the State Board of Education on Wednesday. The proposed “priority list” is the first rating of school construction projects since the 2004-05 rating cycle, through which 22 schools were approved for renovation or construction.

“The list is a vitally important tool for us in understanding the scope of the needs in our schools,” Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said. “When resources become available, we’ll be able to address the most significant needs first.”

The list is only the first step in a comprehensive process that includes prioritizing, determining solutions, designing, and building. Project costs will be estimated and based on those estimates, the Commissioner will decide how many projects will be able to move forward, and the timing of those projects.

The list is based on a scoring system that assigns points to the level of need in a large number of areas, including: unsafe building and site conditions; program-related facility and system deficiencies; enrollment and overcrowding; and program and planning. The scoring is based entirely on need, not on fiscal impact or other criteria. The scoring was conducted by a Department team over the past six months and included extensive site visits.

The Department received 74 applications and reviewed all but three that were ineligible because there are currently no students in the three buildings. The oldest building in the 71 reviewed applications was built in 1861. Fourteen of the buildings were built in the 1970s or later. In all, there are 207 portables being used in the 71 schools; in six of the schools, more than 40 percent of students are in portables.

The Department aims to renovate wherever feasible. Over the past three construction cycles, approximately two-thirds of the projects have been additions and renovations; one-third have required new buildings to be constructed. Sometimes age, condition, safety and other concerns make renovation impractical and/or prohibitively expensive. Construction during the past three cycles now means almost 30,000 students every year are learning in safer and more appropriate learning environments.

Districts will have 60 days to analyze their scores and ask questions of the Department and may submit a formal administrative review request during that period. After the 60 days, the list is considered final.