FARMINGTON — Over the summer, a former shoe factory on High Street has been transformed from a wide-open industrial space into classrooms that will temporarily house 10 Foster Technology Center programs for the next three years.

The massive retrofit that started last June is part of the nearly $65 million expansion and renovation of Mt. Blue High School/ Foster Technology Center into a 226,000-square-foot facility to be known as the Mt. Blue Learning Campus.

“We will have about a third less classroom space, but we will make it work,” said Foster Tech Director Glen Kapiloff.

“We’re calling it the Annex, but the staff calls it ‘the shoe,’, both because it was once a shoe shop but also because it will also be like squeezing into an old shoe, like the nursery rhyme,” he said.

High school starts Wednesday, Sept. 1; kindergarten through grade nine starts Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The district’s other major construction project is the new Mallett School that is going up behind the existing 1931 brick building on Quebec Street.

 The old structure will continue to house students until the new facility opens in September 2011.

Parents have been alerted that parking, bus patterns and car access to the school will be disrupted as work on the $18.9 million, 60,000-square-foot school takes shape, said Mallett School Principal Tracy Williams.

Construction has also eliminated one of the three modular classrooms.

“Nothing will be impacting our daily routine in the classrooms,” she said. “And I am telling people that whatever inconveniences we have now will be gone when we open our brand new school next year.”

She said visitor parking will be available at the Farmington Community Center around the corner on Middle Street and at St. Joesph’s Church Rectory on Quebec Street. Staff parking on the side of the school will remain.

At Foster Tech, Kapiloff said teachers and students packed up, moved, unpacked and set up equipment that had been in the vocational classrooms for decades. The maintenance staff from Mt. Blue Regional School District has worked all summer to prepare the Annex for opening day.

Students helped by designing the new layout, wiring the space for phone and wireless computer access and putting up more than 1,000 sheets of Sheetrock.

Local contractors were hired to do the electrical work, wire the alarm systems and install the duct work for the culinary arts kitchen.

“When you have to move entire departments, including a complete kitchen, a welding shop and an automotive lift, it is pretty challenging,” Kapiloff said. “The district’s maintenance crew has done a phenomenal job.”

He said one example was when they were installing the car lift and realized the concrete floor wasn’t strong enough to support it.

So they brought in jackhammers to break it up and poured a new base.

“They are really jacks-of-all-trades,” Kapiloff said.

Programs being moved in this phase are welding, culinary arts, computer science, forestry, building trades, automotive, digital media, diversified occupations, certified nursing assistant and computer technology. Composites, biotechnology, early childhood and business education will be relocated in the next phase of construction.

As the relocation work has been going on, construction crews have been laying new municipal sewer and public water lines in preparation for connecting them to the new school. Students and parents should allow extra time to get to school in the coming weeks, officials said.

At the high school, the modular classrooms have been moved onto the school’s parking lot, which has cut down on the number of spaces. A new parking area for staff has been created on the front lawn.

Other significant district news is the launch of the new prekindergarten program at Mallet, Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon and Cushing School in Wilton. About 80 students are enrolled in the three schools, said Superintendent Michael Cormier.

The Mallet program will have 32 students and will be held at the University of Maine at Farmington’s Early Childhood Center on Maguire Street until the new school is completed.


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