If voters approve merging Lewiston and Auburn on Nov. 7, it would not mean a delay in building a new Edward Little High School, officials said.

AUBURN — If voters decide to merge Lewiston and Auburn into one city, would that delay construction of the long-awaited, new Edward Little High School?

No, said Scott Brown, director of the Maine Department of Education’s school construction program.

There could be a change in program planning if the cities merged, he said. “I would anticipate a more comprehensive and integrated planning process that would address the educational needs of both communities,” Brown said.

Auburn School Committee Chairman Tom Kendall also said the new Edward Little High School project “will not be delayed by a merger vote, regardless of the outcome.”

Kendall also chairs the Edward Little High School Building Committee. School committee and building committee member Bonnie Hayes asked the state Board of Education “and was assured that the project will proceed as planned,” Kendall said.

The population of each city supports the need for a high school on each side of the Androscoggin River, “so there is no consideration of a consolidated high school.”

After waiting for years, Auburn won state funding in September 2016 to build a new high school. Last fall an ELHS Building Committee was formed. The building committee is searching for a site.

According to a timeline given to the committee in June, if a site is approved by January, the construction budget and design would be developed in 2018. The referendum asking Auburn voters to approve the new high school could be held in November 2018.

If that happens and voters approve the school, construction would begin in the spring of 2019.

According to the Lewiston Auburn charter, Lewiston and Auburn would officially become one city in 2020.

Speaking against Lewiston-Auburn becoming one, Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said that if the merger passes, “I’d fully expect there would be a delay in construction.”

Because, he said, officials from Lewiston and Auburn wouldn’t proceed without first considering what’s best for both cities.

The Lewiston Regional Technical Center has run out of space to add more programs, and Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster has recently said Lewiston High School lacks enough space for arts programs; Lewiston is hiring architects for a draft study of building an arts center on the Lewiston High School campus.

“Why would you not address those in the construction of a second high school in a new city?” LaBonte said.

Speaking in favor of the merger, Gene Geiger responded.

“Mayor LaBonte is very good at throwing up questions and doubts to get people to be concerned or fearful,” Geiger said. “The fact is, Edward Little High School is a separate issue from the merger. It’s on track, whether or not the two cities merge.”

He did say a merger could mean the two school boards meet and discuss building a new Edward Little High School in a way that’s best for students from both cities. That could mean a different look when it comes to programs.

If the two school committees took more time on design, it would be a small delay  “weighed against the value of improving high school education for the next 40 years,” Geiger said.



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