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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 Early October, 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 3-4 years an application cycle goes out and every 3-4 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 projects 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 continued 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 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's classrooms for 950 students and all common areas (which are harder to add on later) for 1100 students, which allows us to not only "right size" the building for existing student populations that are well over 750, but also to accommodate 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 new wing at a very low cost.  
Question #7:  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 even for initial concept designs, but especially NOT for the most recent design.  In the most recent design the classroom wing expansion is moved to the Morrill Avenue side of the building allowing us to maintain use of Access Road and of Robie Park.  The only thing now planned to move to Robie park are the tennis courts.