Auburn voters say yes to high school site

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Auburn voters show their support Wednesday night for building a new Edward Little High School on land where the existing high school is. The straw poll is nonbinding but state required to demonstrate community support. Up next: The Maine Board of Education is expected to vote on the site next week in Augusta. (Bonnie Washuk/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Voters said yes to the recommended site for a new Edward Little High School — the current Harris Street site — in a nonbinding vote Wednesday night.

The vote was 66 yeses of 71 people who attended the meeting at Auburn Middle School. A no vote was not taken. 

The straw poll was nonbinding but required by the Maine Department of Education. The state wants to see whether the community supports the new school’s location.

As planned, the school would be built for a student population of 1,200 and would open in 2023. The state has approved funding, which means it will be paid for by the state. Auburn taxpayers would be required to pay for extras, including a large auditorium or solar panels, if the community decides the school should include amenities not covered by the state.

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The Building Committee announced in June it was recommending the new high school be built on land near the high school at 77 Harris St. It will be built near the tennis courts while students continue to attend the high school. When the new school opens, the old school will be torn down to make way for athletic fields.

Before the straw poll was taken Wednesday, Harriman architect Mark Lee gave an overview of the project and answered questions.

Lee said every athletic field, including the football field, will fit on the 37-acre site. The exception will be the tennis courts. It’s not known yet where the tennis courts will be built, Lee said, but one possibility is at Auburn Middle School.

The school will likely have two or three levels, Lee said, adding that more of those details will be laid out when the design is developed. Proposed building designs will be aired in public meetings, Lee said, inviting interested persons to serve on one of several subcommittees planning the school, from performing arts to athletics.

“We’re always looking for good volunteers,” he said, recommending people check the School Department’s webpage.

Resident Tina Harris asked whether the city planned to buy adjacent property.

“We’re hoping people will show up and donate property,” Lee said, adding, “No. We’re not going to need to buy any property.”

Other questions included whether the state would pay for solar panels (no), whether geothermal is being considered (yes), and whether the location is be big enough for future expansion (yes).

Residents wanted to know if there would be a Lewiston Regional Technical Center satellite at the new school and if the state would pay for it. Yes, Lee said, as long as the state approves those career and technical programs.

One man said it would be nice to have a “bigly” auditorium. Lee said an auditorium of 800 to 1,200 seats is being considered, but the state will only pay for an auditorium that would hold one-third of the students, about 400 seats. The community would have to pay for a larger auditorium, he said.

Silver Moore-Leamon said she realizes the school has to be built with safety provisions, given the school shootings across the nation, but she hoped “common sense” would be used and the school won’t look like a fortress.

“We believe that, too,” Lee said. Those details will be developed “as we get into the design.”

The Maine Board of Education is scheduled to vote on site approval Wednesday, Sept. 12. If it approves, designing the building will begin, Lee said.

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Auburn voters show their support Wednesday night for building a new Edward Little High School on land where the existing high school is. The straw poll is nonbinding but state required to demonstrate community support. Up next: The Maine Board of Education is expected to vote on the site next week in Augusta. (Bonnie Washuk/Sun Journal)

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