TOPSHAM — A drive up Eagles Way affords a side-by-side glimpse of the past and the future.

To the right is Mt. Ararat High School, where classes continue as they have since 1973. To the left is a large construction zone, where cleared land and metal skeletal structures portend the coming of the new high school due to open the fall of 2020.

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The project is 15 percent complete, Chris Shaw, facilities director for School Administrative District 75, said Nov. 8 during a tour of the site with Dan Chuhta, the district’s superintendent, and Building Committee Chairman John Hodge.

“The underground work is where you have the most possibility of running into some issues and unknowns,” Shaw explained. “You do a lot of testing on the soil before you break it, to make sure there’s no ledge or other things (like) springs.”

Most of that work is complete, he said, noting once the project moves above ground, weather is the biggest issue. Utilities have been installed and wells drilled for the facility’s geothermal system.


The roughly Y-shaped building is broken up into five project areas. D and E, the two arms of the Y and farther back from the road, have been tackled first. C is administration, reception, the library and student services, while B is the dining area and commons, and A is the theater, gym and locker rooms.

“They’re trying to work their way back to the front of the building,” Shaw said.

Concrete structures to house emergency stairwells are visible, and inner walls are starting to go on the framing of sections D and E. A complete wall section will be tested to ensure that it provides a strong vapor barrier. At that point, the contract will be released for the walls to be constructed around the entire building.

Quality assurance is a major part of the project. That includes third-party testing and inspection of items such as the concrete to make sure it meets specifications, Shaw said.

PDT Architects, the school’s designers, has a full-time architectural clerk of the works on site. He keeps track of work schedules and makes sure work is being done in accordance with drawings and specifications, Shaw said. Manufacturers’ representatives will soon be coming in, too, for anything that requires a warranty.

A commissioning agent, who works directly for the school district, will test every system in the building once it’s nearly complete.


Steel work will continue through the winter, and the building gradually enclosed, although masonry will stop during that time.

“The beauty of this project is, we started in the spring,” Shaw said. “… We were very particular about starting the project so that we had the maximum … good weather period to build it.”

SAD 75 voters in March 2017 overwhelmingly approved the base project at an amount not to exceed $60 million, which includes $6.2 million for locally funded items that the state will not cover. They also backed a $649,000 synthetic turf athletic field, which will be built in place of the original school once it is demolished.

The planned 153,000-square-foot building, slightly smaller than the existing school, is designed for 750 students — 721 is the current projection for 2020 — with 40 classrooms, nine science rooms and a 17,000-square-foot gym.

Work on a new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham is 15 percent complete. Among those involved with the project are, from left, Building Committee Chairman John Hodge, SAD 75 Superintendent Dan Chuhta and SAD 75 Facilities Director Chris Shaw. (Alex Lear/The Forecaster)

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