Auburn residents hear about plans for a new Edward Little High School on Wednesday night and where it should be built. From left are Sandra Skillings, Sheila Plummer, Bob Gardner and Ralph Tuttle.

Harriman senior urban planner Emily Innes outlines the plan for facilitators of Wednesday’s meeting to discuss where to locate a new Edward Little High School in Auburn. To watch a short aerial video of the area around the school, visit sunjournal.com

Auburn residents study a map of the city Wednesday while considering where the new Edward Little High School should be built. Several said they don’t want it to be more than two to three miles from downtown.

AUBURN — A new Edward Little High School, when it is built in five to seven years, should be relatively close to most of the city’s population, residents said Wednesday night at a community forum.

Working in groups, they studied a map of Auburn while debating where the school should go.

“We selected between two and three miles” from the high school on Western Avenue and within reach of the most residents, Brian DuBois said for his group.

Others said it should be near the Auburn Middle School on Court Street, or near Park Avenue Elementary School.

Or it should be built at the Edward Little High School site, which is being considered. That would mean the athletic fields would have to be elsewhere since there’s not enough usable land.

Speaking for his table, Bob Gardner said his group came up with two thoughts.

“Between one or two miles from the present site, or between two and three miles,” he said. “I personally think we’d have a better shot of finding the acreage we’d need a bit farther out” to have fields and the building on the same site.

The forum was held to get residents’ thoughts to help shape criteria on site selection.

The meeting was held by the Building Committee and Harriman architects of Auburn, the firm designing the school.

Lisa Sawin of Harriman gave an overall view of where the project is. There are 21 steps in building a state-paid-for school. Step 1 is when the Auburn School Department made an application, step 21 is when the school opens.

“We’re at step 6,” the site selection, she said.

In picking the site, a number of locations will be considered and the list whittled down to two or three.

It could be January or later before the site is chosen, Sawin said. The site will have to be approved by the Maine Department of Education and by the community in a straw poll vote.

The most the state will pay for a school of 1,200 students is 42 acres, Emily Innes of Harriman said. But the school could be built on one location and the fields at another. If that happened, smaller parcels could be considered, she said, including the existing school said.

Innes asked residents what they want in a site.

On the list were: enough land for the school and fields; not far from the majority of the city’s population so some students could walk to school; near city offerings; features to create an economic draw for the city; enough land for expansion and parking; accommodation for green power from solar or geothermal sources.

Among the questions were how much would the school cost, how much would the state pay, and how much would Auburn property owners pay.

Harriman’s Mark Lee said it’s too early to know; the costs of the site and building are unknown.

In June, he said the estimated cost in 2014 for a new school was between $62 million and $64 million.

At the end of the meeting, Harriman spokesmen said they’d compile the comments and post it on the School Department’s webpage.

Gardner, who is retired, said he attended because since graduating from Edward Little in 1951, his class has remained loyal to the school.

He said he hopes the new school will “be a complete facility with the fields and building on the same site. … Something the city would be really proud of and would embrace as many areas of studies as possible.”

Annette Lausier had a different point of view. The new high school could be built at the Auburn Mall, which has empty spaces, or at “the barn” on Minot Avenue where a Chinese company announced several years ago development of a medical tourism facility.

“A lot of things aren’t being used,” Lausier said. “Why build things if you can adapt it if you have a good designer?”

A referendum on the new school will be held in 2018.

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A view of Edward Little High School on Wednesday.

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