RSU 26 officials are moving closer to setting the scope of renovations to Orono’s school buildings, with the latest estimates being for $16.9 million in repairs and renovations.

A facilities study was done last year to help plan for potential improvements to Orono schools, where repairs and upgrades have been put off for many years; no major work has been done on the schools since the 1980s. The study sought to address the educational needs of students for the next 10-15 years. PDT Architects offered a lengthy list of issues that it said should be addressed and initially recommended $28 million in improvements, but school officials recognized that amount most likely wouldn’t be palatable with voters and instead cut back to a working number of $14 million, spread out between the Asa C. Adams School, the Orono Middle School/High School complex, performing arts, and athletics.

Several meetings were held last week, including school board and facilities subcommittees and a public forum, where residents learned the amount being sought has now been adjusted upward to $16.9 million.

According to Superintendent Meredith Higgins, the school board agreed at a special meeting last Friday to move forward the project as presented at the public forum, with a couple of support spaces at the OMS/OHS complex added back into the project that had left board members on the fence. PDT will confirm cost estimates in the next few weeks and send those back to school officials for review in early April, and the board is very close to settling it scope of project and cost to be included in the a bond referendum in June.

As now proposed, the middle school/high school complex would get improvements of $6.3 million, with a proposal on the table for four new classroom, two music rooms, a new cafeteria and kitchen. it is believed that work to OMS could be eligible for state funding, however, and only essential repairs will be done there at the present time.

The plan also calls for $4.5 million for the Asa Adams School, which would include space for support staff, a security vestibule and a new cafeteria and kitchen; $1.4 million for a new track/athletic field with additional parking; and $4.3 million for an auditorium. School building also would get roof repairs and electrical upgrades.

The public will have multiple opportunities to make comment at school board meetings in April, and the school board also plans to meet with the town council next month to discuss the project. Plans now call for a vote on a bond on June 11.

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