PARIS – A special referendum Sept. 14 will ask SAD 17 voters to support building a new 450-student Paris Elementary School on High Street.

Voters in the eight-town school district last year approved purchase of the land, bordered by Hathaway Road and Meadow Lane. The referendum seeks district support for the $600,000 local share of school costs for the $12 million school, which ranked third on the state’s list for priority funding in 2002.

SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman said the referendum needed to be held before November elections in order for architects to prepare designs in time for the project to be placed out to bid in the spring.

“It would set us back about a year if we waited until November,” Eastman said. “We want the concrete work in the ground before winter sets in” next year, he said. If all goes well, the new school could then open in midyear or the fall of 2006.

Eastman said the district faced many meetings with state Department of Education officials when the school was in the concept-approval stage. He made nine trips to Augusta to fight for a design that incorporated a “school within a school” instead of the large-scale approach favored by the state.

Preliminary designs call for separation of kindergarten and grades one and two from grades three and four on the first floor, with grades five and six on the second floor. Along with a gym, library, music and art room, the building also will provide space to pilot a new in-school pre-kindergarten program that would operate independently of the school.

The secret-ballot referendum will take place at local polling places in each of the towns.

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