Students stand in the lunch line Tuesday in the Edward Little High School cafeteria. Among the problems with the building is that the cafeteria is in the renovated basement, which lacks ventilation and space. Overall, the building is not energy efficient, has poor air quality due to insufficient ventilation and lacks classroom space and athletic fields. Auburn has gained state funding to build a new school, which could open in 2021.

AUBURN — As work continues on building a new Edward Little High School, the Building Committee Tuesday night was given a draft list of advantages and disadvantages to build new or renovate the existing school.

If this feels like deja vu, it is.

The same question was debated in 2013 by a different committee, but that committee was disbanded with hopes that Auburn would get state funding approval, saving local taxpayers a bundle.

Approval for state funding did happen last fall, which means 100 percent of the school will be paid for by the state.

But, explained Harriman architect Mark Lee, the question of renovate vs. build has to be explored again to ensure the best decision is made and state dollars are used wisely.

After a workshop last month with teachers, students and school officials, Harriman architects gave the committee a list of pros and cons of three options:

• Renovate or add an addition to the existing building;

• Build a new school at the existing site; and

• Build a new school at a new site.

The list of advantages for renovating or adding to the existing building was short: nostalgia for the building; a good, central location; and possibly lower costs.

The list of disadvantages for this option was long, including an extended time for construction and disrupting students. Students would have to go to school for several years in a different location or in a village of mobile classrooms. Renovating would mean limits to how energy efficient the building could be made and much of the building is not good, including the outer walls.

The list of pros for building new on the existing site included more ways to support the Auburn School Department’s learning goals. Also, there would be less disruption to students since they wouldn’t be moved; a greater ability to make a “green” or energy efficient building; and a good, central location.

Disadvantages included costs to tear down the old building once the new school was up; a lack of space on the site; and a limit to how many more fields could be added. The site would still lack parking and playing fields.

Committee member Susan Mercier asked if land surrounding the site, part of the neighborhood near the school, could be purchased to make the site larger.

That will be explored, Lee replied, if a decision is made to build new. If that path is taken, the existing site will become one of the sites considered, Lee said.

The advantages for building a new school on a new site included more flexibility for programs; less disruption to students; a building that would give greater access to the community; a “green” building; room for new fields; and adequate parking with room for bus and motor vehicle traffic.

The disadvantage: the price. The cost is unknown, said Harriman architect Jeff Larimer.

Three years ago, an estimated cost for a new high school for the population of Edward Little, about 1,000 students, was between $62 to $65 million. Costs have risen since, Lee said.

Building Committee member and City Manager Peter Crichton said he was surprised that the list of disadvantages for a new site didn’t include possible costs of wetlands or extending water and sewer.

Lee said it’s not now known whether those costs will apply, because any new site is in the abstract.

What’s next is that architects will develop projected costs for the three options, which will be shared with the state, then the Building Committee when it meets on June 27.

“The rest of the story depends on what the recommendation is,” said Harriman project manager Lisa Sawin.

New high school could open in 2021

If officials decide to build a new school, a site would be selected by January after required community approval through a straw vote.

In 2018, planning for concept design and the budget would be developed, which would require another straw vote.

The legally binding referendum could be held in November 2018.

If that happened and if the school was approved, construction would begin in the spring of 2019.

Under that time frame, which is subject to change, the school would open in the fall of 2021. 

Source: Harriman Architects


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