AUBURN — The Auburn School Committee accepted “Renew EL” building committee’s proposal Wednesday night, leaving two weeks to ruminate before coming together to decide the fate of Edward Little High School.

The building committee, comprising parents, teachers, students and city staff, presented the disadvantages and advantages of three options: to renovate and expand the existing high school for an estimated $48 million, to build a new high school on a new site, which would include the added cost of purchasing land, or to build a new high school on the grounds where the current high school is located for an estimated $60 million.

The cost of such endeavors, including the $60 million price tag estimated for the third option, fueled debate among the audience and School Committee members concerned with the financial aspect of undertaking such a large project. However, all agreed it was time that something be done about the state of the school.

“The problems we saw 20 years ago are still there,” said Auburn School Committee member Bonnie Hayes. She cited erratic temperature control and “green slime” from the dysfunctional heating unit among the school’s problems. “I think it’s time we look at this and make it a better school for our students and for our teachers.”

Among those in the audience was Edward Little High School Principal Jim Miller who feels that it’s the school’s job to point out what they have and are facing in the existing 50-year-old structure, and it’s the community’s job is to decide what to do with it.

Worries about safety, noise levels, disruption of classes and lack of parking don’t seem to be troubling E.L.H.S. students, according to seniors Hanna Mogensen, Emily Dumont and Mikael Heikkinen, who were at the meeting to deliver the student information items. All agree that the recommendation of building a new high school on the existing property is the best option, but acknowledge the monetary concerns. Mogensen feels that students and the community are supportive of keeping the school at the current location, not only for sentimental reasons, but because it’s looked at as an established pillar of the community.

City Councilor Ron Potvin plans on proposing an amendment to the option of building a new high school on the current site at the Oct. 21 meeting in regards to cutting down the $60 million cost, which he calls unacceptable.

“As far as the educational part of the school goes, that needs to happen brand new, I certainly agree with that,” he said. He feels that existing portions of the school can still be utilized, such as the gymnasium, and can be addressed at a later date, ultimately saving the community money.

The Auburn School Committee would need to decide if it is going to apply for state construction money, which would be compiled into a priority list that would go to the State Board of Education in July 2011, or to seek local funding for the project.


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