LEWISTON — A discussion about adding six classrooms to Farwell Elementary School focused more on enrollment Tuesday night than on how the new classrooms would look.

Lewiston city councilors ultimately chose a pricier, $2.3 million option to alleviate crowding in Lewiston schools, voting to build a permanent addition closer to Farwell’s current building rather than leasing a temporary modular building.

School Superintendent Bill Webster said construction would begin during this school year, and the new classrooms would be ready for students by the fall of 2016.

A new, larger school planned for Franklin Pasture will not be ready for use for four years. Webster said the Farwell addition would give Lewiston students more room until the new school is built.

“The new school starts in 2019, but what will we do until then?” Webster said. “If we would have known that our enrollment would increase, we would have done something different.”

Webster said the addition would provide space for roughly 150 new students, freeing up space in other schools by moving pre-kindergarten programs to Farwell.

“Farwell has a larger gymnasium and one of the larger libraries,” Webster said. “On a square-foot basis per student, it has more common space per student. So these classrooms can be expanded without overwhelming the common-space capacity.”

But City Councilor Mark Cayer said he was concerned because the city does not know whether enrollment will continue to rise or level out.

“I am really struggling with the dollar amounts and reports telling us the student numbers are going to go down,” Cayer said. “It feels like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to an increase in students, but we have no idea what next year is going to bring us.”

Councilor Nate Libby said he was concerned the proposal didn’t go far enough.

“I would very much like to see a structure that has the ability to expand,” he said. “Montello, Geiger and the other schools do not have the ability to expand. Farwell is the only place to do it, so let’s plan ahead and design a structure that can be built upon in the future.”

In the end, only Councilor Mike Lachance voted no.

Lachance said his concern was not with the plan but the timing. He said the school district should wait until discussing the fiscal year 2016-17 budget next spring to bring the plan forward.

“I do not agree with bonding items,” Lachance said. “This council worked hard to bring our borrowing down and I don’t agree with pushing it back up in the middle of the budget cycle. I would prefer to see it next year as a part of next year’s budget cycle when we can make a better design and better use of our funds.”

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