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Gorham High School Building Project » GHS Project Questions and Answers

GHS Project Questions and Answers

The following questions and associated answers are in no particular order of importance.  They have been taken from recent public forums and from our recent thought exchange.  Items will be added to this list as they come about.  If you have a specific question you'd like to make sure is answered and added to this page, please email heather.perry@gorhamschools.org with your question!  Thank you!
Question #1:  Why Do We Need This Building Project?
Answer:  That's a pretty big question.  The most fundamental answer to this question is because we are growing and as a result we have already run out of space at the high school and if not addressed, conditions of overcrowding will only worsen over time as our large population wave that is now at the grades K-5 levels, work their way into the high school levels.  The current building was built for 750 students.  It has 868 students in it now.  It is predicted to have 975 students in it by 2028-2029.
Question #2:  When I look back at Historical GHS Enrollments, I see that the total enrollment in 2004 was just a few under where it is now.  Why do we need an addition at GHS?
Answer: It is true.  Enrollments at GHS in 2004 were just 18 students lower than they are right now.  The problem is that by looking solely at that past figure, we are not looking at the future problem that is quickly approaching.  The future problem is that even though our enrollments at GHS are predicted to actually decrease between now and 2024, once our larger class sizes (which are now in grades K-5) reach the high school levels, we will then be seeing enrollments grow to much larger sizes than where they are now.  NESDEC predicts that our enrollments at GHS will be 975 students by the 2028-29 school year.  That is over 100 more students than we have now!  Additionally, when you look at our community and space still left to grow in residential populations, it is hard to believe that our growth will stop there for the next 25 years.  Below is a graph that shows the historical enrollment at GHS and then what the future enrollment looks like.  We are trying to time this project so that it occurs while our enrollments are relatively low so that we can reduce overall costs.
The graphs below show the GHS historical population and then a quick look at our K-12 population history and outlook!
Question #3:  Has the building committee considered other options to upgrade GHS facilities other than ones that use the existing cramped site?
Answer:  Yes.  We actually spent over a year studying those options.  The GHS building committee has studied over 7 different options.  Approximately 2 years ago, the GHS building committee worked with the Gorham School Committee and the Gorham Town Council to narrow down those options to our top three options.  Those were:
1.  Flip-Flopping GHS and GMS because the GMS site has more room to grow.
2.  Building a new HS off-site at a different location as that would provide more room and an ability to design for the future.
3.  Renovate the existing high school on the existing site in order to keep the HS in the center of Town and maximize our already large community investment.
The GHS building committee then contracted with an architectural firm - Oak Point Associates out of Biddeford - to conduct a full-scale feasibility study for each of the preferred three options.  You can view the results of that study by CLICKING HERE.
The results of the study were that the most expensive option (by a lot) was the flip-flop option.  The second most expensive was the new building off-site and the least expensive option was the renovation on the existing site.  After consultation during several meetings between the Gorham School Committee and the Town Council, the Town Council gave specific direction that their preferred option was to renovate on the existing site in order to protect the town's current investment and in order to keep the high school in the center of the community.  This is why we are pursuing the renovation designs as we are.
Question #4:  Are the proposed athletic field upgrades going to be part of taxpayer expense?
Answer:  We are trying NOT to make them part of taxpayer expense.  In late August/Early September, 2019 we will be launching the "Gorham Pride" Athletic Capital Campaign.  The goal of this campaign will be to raise significant funds towards the proposed athletic field upgrades such as synthetic fields, new lights, new bleachers, etc. (please see Athletic Capital Campaign Page on the right for more detail).  
Question #5:  Why is this a locally funded project?  Couldn't we apply to get a state-funded project instead?
Answer:  A very good question!  When I first came on board as Superintendent of Schools, I learned very quickly that we needed to consider a capital expansion at GHS due to enrollments.  Upon learning that, I reached out directly to the Maine Department of Education and met with folks from their State Construction Project team.  I shared with them details about our existing building, as well as details regarding our projected enrollment increases and asked them straight out - would it be worth it for Gorham to put in an application for state funding?  The straight answer was no.  They explained that the state of Maine has not been setting aside enough money at the state level to support public schools in needed capital renovations and as a result, there are far greater needs that must be taken care of in terms of life and safety needs in other buildings across the state than what Gorham's needs are.  They explained that every 2-3 years an application cycle goes out and every 2-3 years only the top 5-8 school applications are funded.  There are many who have been on that list for 10+ years and simply never rise to the top because of the fact that there are conditions in some schools whose needs far outweigh others.  Therefore, the Gorham School Committee decided not to waste valuable time and resources and did not apply to the most recent round for a high school project.  As an example of how some other schools did, Scarborough Schools put in 3 different applications.  They have been seeing continued growth and have also run out of room.  The highest school they got on the most recent state list was in the '30s.
To be transparent, when we look into the future, Gorham likely has TWO Capital Construction project in its not too distant future (within the next 15 years).  One is at the high school level and the other is at the elementary level, assuming growth continues.  The plans of the School Committee right now are to channel continue growth at the K-5 levels towards the Narragansett Elementary School site, which is the site that has the most room to grow.  Over the next several years we will be adding modular spaces to this site to account for our growth at these levels.  Our intent will be that once the GHS project is approved and well underway, we would then shift our attention to the Narragansett site and seek to apply for state funding for that project.  That project would likely place higher on the list because the existing building and core facilities are older and in need of more significant attention.  Our ultimate goal would be to try and position ourselves to have one project paid for locally and one paid for by the state.  We will continue to assess our long term facilities planning each year as we see how enrollment numbers continue to play out.
Question #6:  I see the proposed design closes off the access road.  What do you plan to do with traffic flow?  That's a lot of cars in a very cramped area!
Answer:  Right now, our plan is to widen Ball Park road to make it more vehicle accessible and to also widen out Access Road behind the HS out to Rt. 202 to include pedestrian sidewalks.  This would help traffic flow.  We are also considering adding things like speed bumps, and street lights and even limiting the types of traffic that flow behind the school.  We have several other ideas that might also help to resolve an already existing problem and improve the site in such a way as to better address it.  Right now, we are waiting on a Traffic Engineering study to be completed which will give us several ideas on how to address issues of traffic on the site in such a way that meets all required codes and optimizes traffic flow and parking.  Once that study is complete, we will share it with the public on this website.
Question #7:  I am concerned that the building project being discussed does not allow for continued growth in Gorham.  Will we be back here again in ten years asking for millions more for another addition and expansion?
Answer:  The GHS Building Committee is trying to design for anticipated growth to at least get us through the life of the bond before having to come back to Gorham Taxpayers for another big ask.  Right now, projections have us going to 975 students by 2028-2029.  We are designing the building for 1100 students, which allows for 125 student growth within the existing design.  We are also designing the building so that we could relatively easily add 7-8 additional classrooms on the 2nd floor of the new wing (above the facilities offices) at a very low cost.  Finally, we will likely design the new wing so that if expansion is needed even beyond our design, and hopefully after this project has been paid for, we could add a third floor onto the new wing. 
Question #8:  I've heard that as a result of this project, Robie Park will be gone, basically paved over.  Is this true?
Answer:  No, this is not true. Parts of Robie park will be utilized for this project, but a significant amount of existing green space will remain.  As of right now, our plans would utilize approximately 5-6 feet of the park stretching out parallel to the existing GHS parallel parking areas located next to Access Road.  Access Road would be closed allowing us to place the new classroom wing mostly within that existing location with just a little bit of the green space on that side being used by the new classroom wing.  On the side of Robie park nearest Merrill Avenue, we are planning on maintaining a "green buffer" by keeping as many of the pine trees located next to the road as possible while also planting additional hardwoods that are more sturdy and can hold up better to the abuse of Maine's unpredictable weather.  Also on that side, we would utilize some space to move our existing 4 tennis courts and add 1 more tennis court to place 5 tennis courts on that end of the existing park.  Finally, we are looking to take a little corner off the park in behind where the existing softball field is now to utilize as parking.  The picture below, although not to scale, shows what we are thinking.  In general, we want to keep as much of the existing "green buffer" as possible.  Existing community gardens, existing playground equipment, and as many of the existing trees that we can keep, will be kept.