TOPSHAM — Residents in School Administrative District 75 will vote in a straw poll Thursday on whether to build a new Mt. Ararat High School on the existing campus.

The Jan. 21 vote will not identify a specific location on the 40-acre campus, but will concern whether the new school should be placed somewhere on the property. A specific site could be determined within a few months.

The show-of-hands poll is open to all residents from Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham – not just registered voters. The tally will be counted and reported to the state. The straw vote will be held at 6 p.m. at the Mt. Ararat High School Commons.

A recent draft facilities study by the architectural firm Portland Design Team (PDT), hired by SAD 75 to work on the project, recommended that the high school be built at the current site, noting that the cost to renovate the school would exceed the cost to build new.

PDT has developed eight test fits of the site, showing how a new building, alongside athletic fields, would look in various scenarios.

The “new vs. renovation” analysis marked the fifth step in a 21-part, state-mandated process that will include two public straw votes, according to the district website. Next week’s vote on the project location will be followed by a vote on the building concept.

If both votes generate positive results, a referendum could be held in November on whether the project should be funded.

Four approvals by the state Board of Education are also required, according to SAD 75 Superintendent Brad Smith: site, concept design, design and funding, and final funding.

The SAD 75 board of directors voted unanimously last November to build a school to replace the existing one, which is 42 years old. SAD 75 had applied since 1999 for state school construction funding, and the school ranked seventh in 2014 on a state construction funding list.

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