AUBURN — After hearing Wednesday night what the proposed new Edward Little High School would look like and cost, resident Pat Sawyer was all in.

The state is paying for the new high school, which is set to open in 2023. The total cost has not yet been determined, but what the state will cover is basic. Presenters at the Wednesday night forum at the high school unveiled what the new school could be: the best high school in the region.

If $22 million in local costs are approved, it would mean an annual property tax increase of about $149 for a property valued at $150,000.

Sawyer said she’d support that to have a school with such amenities as a $3.3 million athletic complex including eight track lanes that could host tournaments, and a $5.6 million performing arts center for student and public performances that could bring in revenue.

“I want this to be a facility that will attract people to the city,” Sawyer said. “I’m very impressed. I think it will do that.”

Her husband, Stephen Sawyer, didn’t endorse the entire package.

Eight lanes of track on the football field may put the stands too far from the field, he said. And the performing arts package would cost a lot.

“It may be transformative and positive for the community,” Stephen Sawyer said, but he’d like to see voters decide on “certain categories” in the local referendum. “The auditorium is so expensive, it’s in a category by itself,” he said.

During the 90-minute presentation, Harriman architects Mark Lee and Lisa Sawin offered a description of what the school would look like.

“It’s a big school,” Sawin said, 278,000 square feet, 65 percent larger than the existing building. It would be built behind the existing school, the entrance facing the existing gym. Construction would take place during classes, and instruction would not be interrupted.

On one side of the building would be three levels of classrooms, the top floor overlooking the city. The other side would feature a large gym, a second smaller gym, weight rooms, athletic classrooms and a top-notch, 1,200-seat performing arts center with dressing rooms, a tech shop, a large stage, lighting and nearby student art classes.

During the day, one entrance would be used to ensure safety. When the gym or performing arts center is open to the public after school hours, a different entrance would be used.

There would be more parking, more classrooms and more athletic fields. Edward Little would finally have the athletic fields on campus, Lee said. The athletic complex would have a turf field, stadium seating, lighting, and concession stands with restrooms.

Near the main, daytime entrance, culinary arts and cosmetology programs would offer a public salon and cafe served by students learning trades. Not far away would be 10 to 12 career and technical classrooms, including engineering, early childhood and fire science.

The school would feature a large cafeteria/commons space and a library, both near a courtyard that would give off lots of natural light.

As part of the $22 million local package, the building would be heated and cooled by geothermal, half of the cost covered by the state, and which would pay for itself in three years, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.
At the end of the forum, Grondin, Lee and Sawin read questions from the audience, including, “Can you get by with one large gym and drop the second gym?” Two gyms are to accommodate physical education classes for the 1,100 students, Sawin said.
Another question: Is such a large auditorium needed?
High school administrator Darren Avery said students and the community lack a performing arts center, that a 1,200-seat auditorium would not only help students with gatherings and art education, but public performances would raise revenue for schools and bring business to local restaurants and hotels.
Another person asked whether grants or naming rights would be sought to help with costs.
“We’re working on that,” Grondin said, adding that discussions are ongoing.
But while naming part of the building could be considered, there’s no plan to make money by renaming the school, Grondin said.
“We’re Eddies.”

This drawing on display at Edward Little High School shows the ground floor locations of various classrooms and facilities being proposed for the new school.

What’s next:

March 12: Public hearing and straw poll at which the public will be asked to informally vote on the school design and costs.

March 15: Package gets submitted to the Maine Department of Education.

June or possibly September: Auburn referendum in which voters have the final say. If approved, construction would likely begin the next year, with opening scheduled for fall 2023.

The layout of the proposed Edward Little High School campus is shown in this drawing officials have posted for public input in the school.

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