Auburn’s new Edward Little High School, seen from the back in mid-August, opened to students on Wednesday. The footprint of the building is about 70% bigger than the old high school, a portion of which can be seen to the right. “I don’t know where to begin,” said schools Superintendent Cornelia Brown. “It’s just so different — it’s light, it’s beautiful.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Edward Little High School students are now hard at work in their new digs at 77 Harris St. The new high school building had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public tour Aug. 27 to show off the reality of what was only a concept in most people’s minds.

The new building and grounds promise a 21st century education featuring maker spaces, flex spaces, plenty of music, art and performing arts space, and state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor athletic space, said Auburn Schools Superintendent Cornelia Brown. The indoors are punctuated by natural light, up-to-date technology, security features and safe zones for emergencies, and a fluid classroom and hallway layout allowing large- and small-group gatherings as well as solitary learning.

“I don’t know where to begin,” said Brown asked for her thoughts on the new space. “It’s just so different — it’s light, it’s beautiful, it’s new. . . . There are work studies and maker spaces and it’s just got so many places for kids to gather and talk and be with each other.”

The school boasts a 1,200-seat auditorium, science labs for every science class, technology rooms, and a full cafeteria and kitchen. According to ELHS teachers Elaine Derosby and Marissa Moreau, both of whom are ELHS alumni, the cafeteria is a subject of great importance since the old high school eating space — not a cafeteria — was located in the basement with no windows. “It was a dungeon!” Moreau exclaimed.

“It’s a good fresh start,” continued Moreau. “You see the excitement in (students’) faces and the awe. Just to hear what they have to say about it is awesome.”

“And the different opportunities that we haven’t had yet like the theater and having all our athletic teams on campus,” said Derosby. “Just a lot of different things we’ve never had before for these kids.”


Derosby, a field hockey and softball coach, said that finally having a field onsite is going to be a game changer for her teams and other sports teams that have had to shuffle off campus for practices and games. Derosby’s classroom will overlook some of the fields, she said.

“We’ve always had to travel. It’s just exciting for everybody.”

The nearly 280,000-square-foot building exceeds the old building’s footprint by about 70%, said Brown. The overall cost was $126,614,673, with the state kicking in 88% of the cost. The roughly $15.2 million that Auburn taxpayers will need to come up with was bonded out over 20 years. According to Auburn School Department’s calculations, which only look out to 2026, the cost for the average taxpayer will be $61 for fiscal year 2022-2023, $94 for 2023-2024, $92 for 2024-2025 and $90 for 2025-2026.

Discussions about a new high school building started in earnest in 2016 when the future of the aging building was really coming into question. Conducting a “new versus renovate” analysis, which was mandated by the state for large-scale projects, was basically a formality, said Brown. The project had its ground-breaking in April 2021, she said.

“The staff and students were involved in the design. They were asked about their thoughts, needs, and safety and security, and architects met with them about all of that. We’re having what we call ‘satellite’ CTE programs from the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and this program is the first in Maine.”

Career and Technical Education spaces in the new school include cosmetology, culinary arts and early childhood education, among others. Technical education classrooms that are not quite finished yet will be phased in throughout the year, Brown said.


Harriman Associates of Auburn designed and oversaw the project. Senior structural engineer Amanda Jandreau provided some of the project’s technical fun facts (see related story). For instance, she noted that the structural integrity of the roof could accommodate up to 350 elephants.

“The site contractor used a drone to locate sub-slab piping, check foundation locations and measure onsite stockpile volumes,” Jandreau said. “One happy accident was, due to the existing site conditions, the building was rotated 90 degrees from the original chosen location. This rotation provided a view of the cathedral in Lewiston from the second-floor balcony.”

Remaining work at the site includes demolition of the old school, construction of additional parking, finishing touches on the auditorium and a handful of CTE classrooms, construction and paving of a bus loop, the creation of softball and baseball fields, tennis courts and a multi-purpose athletic field, Brown said.

Demolition costs total $6.5 million, $6 million of which goes toward the abatement of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); the state kicked in about $5 million toward those costs. Current parking is at 338 spaces; when construction is complete, that number will rise to 550 spaces. The fields are scheduled for an August 2024 completion.

Brown said bids for the project came in over budget, which required some changes and meant that items like certain landscaping, baseball and softball dugouts and some paving had to be dropped from the design.

“Some of those things we’ll be able to put back over time,” Brown said. “(But) something to consider — they put this (new school) up through a pandemic and we had the same challenges with supply issues and a tight labor market. So, that was a factor for us. But remarkably, they delivered on time.”

True to their craft, teachers Derosby and Moreau said that beyond getting into the new space, they’re excited just to get back to school in general. There will be a lot to miss about the old school, they said, but the opportunities students now have are almost limitless.

“Watching the gym come down, a place where I spent a lot of time, is going to be a little hard,” said Derosby, “but there’s so many things that we needed and didn’t always have.”

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