TOPSHAM — As the school year begins to wind down and students start to look to summer, Maine School Administrative District 75 took time Thursday to look to the future.

The football field at Mt. Ararat High School was the scene for a groundbreaking ceremony of the new high school, set to open in 2020. School department officials, board members, and project engineers reflected on the work it took to get to this point, and celebrate a new high school for the district.

“The four towns of MSAD 75 are truly unique and truly remarkable,” said Superintendent Brad Smith. “That’s due to the people who live and work here.”

Smith acknowledged those who worked to make the project a reality, including members of the school board and building committee, as well as local officials.

Smith also acknowledged Mt. Ararat High School Principal Donna Brunette’s work.

“Donna Brunette, I don’t know how someone runs a high school under normal circumstances and the last few years have been anything but normal,” Smith said. “Donna has just kept things together and moving forward.”

Smith also noted that when residents are asked what they look for in a community, good schools are usually at the top of the list, a sentiment echoed by Building Committee Co-Chairman David A. Johnson.

“More than anything we’ve tried to listen,” he said. “We’ve tried to listen to the students, we’ve tried to listen to the staff.

“Most importantly, we’ve tried to listen to the community as to what they valued to have in this school,” Johnson added. “They, I believe, have shown their support in the way they’ve showed up to public hearings, the way they showed up at straw polls, and the way they supported us at the ballot box.”

Thursday’s speakers were optimistic about the future of the project.

“It’s something we can all be proud of, to be within budget, hopefully we stay within budget. We’ll all be working hard to make sure that happens,” said Building Committee Co-Chairman John Hodge. “It’s an incredible amount of work that went in to this, I’m looking forward to throwing some dirt here.”

Voters approved the $60 million project in March 2017, as well as a $649,000 artificial turf field.

The new school will be built on the current athletic field and construction will begin once the school year is over.

School Administrative District 75 officials and others grab shovels Thursday to break ground for a new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. From left are school Principal Donna Brunette, Schools Superintendent Brad Smith, Building Committee Co-chairmen David A. Johnson Sr. and John Hodge, PDT Architects employee Kathy Kahill, Arthur C. Dudley construction company owner Arthur C. Dudley and PDT Architects employees Lyndon Keck and Alan Kuniholm. (Chris Quattrucci/Times Record)