People listen to a presentation on the new Edward Little High School during an informational meeting in Auburn on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The more details that emerge about the proposed new Edward Little High School, the more real it seems. 

Project architects provided the latest developments to a packed house Wednesday night at City Hall. 

“We’re starting to really see the building take shape,” architect Mark Lee said.

Lee and Lisa Sawin, architects with the firm Harriman Associates, said everything is on schedule, with construction expected to begin in 2021. Lee cautioned the big celebration will not occur until the fall of 2023, when the new ELHS welcomes students for the first time. 

Still, about four dozen people sat transfixed at City Hall as the architects described some of the design features of the new school. 

There is the new athletic complex, where the architects foresee 1,470 seats for the hometown fans and another 400 seats for visitors. And a press box. And concessions stands, both indoor and out, with clear site lines to the scoreboard. 

The group at City Hall was also treated to a slideshow of images showing how the new school will look. Lee and Sawin broke it down to the finest details, describing matters of accent colors, glazing and graphic designs. 

“As we walk in through the front doors,” Lee said, opening an artist rendering, “this is our view from the main lobby.” 

That view, according to the image on the screen, features wood ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and an abundance of natural light.

There is also an image of the area where entrances to the gym and theater are located. The area around the gym’s doorway is painted bright yellow. The theater’s, bright red. 

Of course, the architects explained, the plans are still being tweaked and there’s an approval process they’ll need to go through before anything is finalized. Lee said his firm expects to complete their design and submit to the Department of Education this summer. Once the plan is approved, contractor bids will be solicited, Lee said, and construction should  begin in 2021.

It will take roughly two years to complete construction.

“So, that means the fall of 2023 is when the new school will open,” Lee said. “At that time, we’ll all get together and celebrate tearing down the existing building.”

Once the school is opened to students, work will continue outside the building for another year, Lee said, “and then the new campus will be open in all its glory.”

During the planning process, school officials have also consulted with Auburn citizens and students through a variety of surveys.  

What do the students want? Lots of natural light, for starters. They want plenty of food bar options, space for outdoor classrooms and — they’re teenagers, after all — outlets pretty much everywhere for charging electronics. 

The students also reported they would like plenty of benches, shaded areas and, yes, more outlets in the space outside the school. 

“They’re really excited to see the design of the courtyard,” Sawin said. “But they’re also very excited to provide feedback and to make sure that future generations are going to have the best school possible.”

That seems to be what everyone wants.

In June, Auburn residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of building the new school. Now it is just a matter of architects tweaking the plans until they get it just right before they start putting out contract bids so construction can begin. 

The $122 million school, built with mostly state dollars, will be the most-expensive high school in Maine, with a wing for career and technical programs, room for 1,100 students, geothermal heating and cooling, a top-notch athletic stadium with a turf football field and a 1,200-seat performing arts center. 

More meetings and further updates are planned as the project continues. There is also the matter of fundraising, which kicked off officially once the project was approved in June. 

“The local fundraising campaign would reduce the amount of increase in taxes for the New ELHS Project,” according to the project website.

“The campaign goal is to raise $3-5 million. It will provide an opportunity for residents, alumni and businesses to donate funds for naming rights, including stadium, performing arts, fields and facilities.” 

Learn more at 

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