Frequently Asked Questions
Why not just build a new school? Why renovate?
It was determined in the Master Plan Study that the existing Freeport High School site can be renovated and expanded to meet the needs of the RSU5 students. With careful strategic additions and the ability to add another floor to the 2-story addition, the high school can accommodate future enrollment increases for the next 30+ years.
PDT Architects found that all of the major components of Freeport High School, with the exception of the Industrial Arts Building, are structurally sound and suitable for major renovations and improvements, allowing the building to continue to be used for another 20 to 30 years and beyond. Additionally, the performing arts center and science wing are relatively new structures, completed just 10 years ago in 2003.
The cost of the proposed renovation base project, at $14.6 million, is significantly less than the cost of a new high school. A new high school would cost between $44 million and $48 million, depending on site development costs.
The FHS Facilities Study Advisory Committee found that the renovation project was the fiscally responsible solution.
Isn’t the school big enough to accommodate all the students?
During the formation of the RSU, a consultant estimated that the capacity of the high school was sufficient to accommodate the high school students from the three towns. During the Facility Study/Master Plan study, however, the architect performed a detailed analysis and discovered that the previous capacity estimate had an error in its assumption of existing square footage. The Facility Study’s architect has determined that the existing building can accommodate 500 students.
How many students could the proposed plan accommodate in the future?
The addition as designed and proposed for referendum can accommodate 665 students comfortably and up to 750 students if necessary. Additionally, four new classrooms can be incrementally added at the end of the science wings to accommodate an additional 90 students. Should it be necessary in the future, the building addition will be designed to support a 3rd story. Ten classrooms can be added on a third floor which would accommodate 176 students. These additions result in a potential capacity of 932 to 1,016 students. We would expect the school site and building to accommodate, as a full build-out, roughly 1,000 students.
How far into the future would a 1,000 student high school last for the RSU?
Predicting student enrollments beyond 10 years into the future is speculative in nature. That said, NESDEC has predicted there will be 688 students in the high school in the calendar year 2021-2022. This is an average addition of 12 students per year over the ten year period. If one assumes the same increase going forward from there, the population would reach 1,000 by the year 2047, 34 years from now. A second estimate could be to assume that every ten years the school population grows 21% - the NESDEC estimated percentage growth for 2011-2021. If one assumes 21% growth every ten years, 1,000 students would attend the school around 2041, which is 28 years from now. Using the two different methodologies, 1,000 students will be reached in either 28 or 34 years. An average would be 30 years. It’s also possible that enrollment growth would begin to flatten after the next 10 years and it could take much longer to reach 1,000 students.
Why isn’t the cafeteria big enough to accommodate our students?
The existing cafeteria seating area is approximately 3,000 square feet. The seating area for the new cafeteria food court will be 4,500 square feet, or 50% larger. This cafeteria has been sized to handle roughly 55% of the expected enrollment in ten years. If the school continues to have all students eat at the same lunch period, the remaining students that would not find seats in the cafeteria could eat at informal alcoves in the hallways and lobbies where benches are provided, or in the two student work areas located in the 1961 wing. Students could also continue with the existing pattern of eating in rooms where school clubs meet. In the planning for the school, the cafeteria was never sized large enough to accommodate all students in a single seating.
Why can’t we just have two lunches and keep a smaller cafeteria?
A single lunch period has several advantages. At Freeport High School, it provides the opportunity for all teachers to be available to students seeking academic assistance and support. It is a time for students, especially those without study halls, to collaborate on assigned classroom projects. The lunch period is often used for student clubs and service organizations to meet because so many students have after-school extra and co-curricular activities. IEP and 504 meetings are also conducted during this time enabling parents, students and teachers the opportunity to meet and develop educational plans.
Is there a contingency in the project estimate?
Yes, there is a 10% contingency in the estimated project cost to cover both inflation and unexpected conditions which may be discovered during construction.
Isn’t the poor economy and state funding reductions a reason to wait on this project?
As stated earlier, our school is already operating over capacity, and we are certain that our student population will be going up every year over the next four years as Durham students, who formerly had the option to go to other high schools, will now all be coming to Freeport High School.
Right now, interest rates are at the lowest rates we have seen in years. They are not likely to get much lower, and are likely, if anything, to go up in the next few years. Additionally, in a tough economy, bidding is often more competitive and pricing is typically lower than in a strong economy. We are in a position to obtain very competitive quotes and low interest rates the sooner we begin this process.
What items were removed from the project? Can we fundraise for these items?
Citizens will have the opportunity to vote on two separate ballot questions on November 5, 2013. The base project containing academic renovations and field repairs was reduced by $580,000. The second ballot question for a bond upgrade for a track and synthetic turf at $1.7 million had previously been reduced by over one million dollars. Previous reductions include:
- Track & Field Lights
- Concession Stand
- Press Box
- Public Address System
- Softball Dugouts
- Athletic Storage Garage
- Baseball Field Expansion / Improvements
- Two Additional Tennis Courts
- Morse Street Parking Improvements
- Trophy Case
- Peace Garden Walkway
- Point of Service Software for Food Court
Once approved, a fund raising campaign will begin to address those items removed from the project. The fund raising campaign may include corporate sponsorship and naming opportunities.
Can we phase the project?
Yes, this project could be constructed in phases and phasing the work was considered by the Committee. Portions of the project, such as renovating the 1961 building, necessitate constructing in phases. The base project of $14.6 million will be a 20 year bond while the bond upgrade of $1.7 million for the track and synthetic turf will be a 10 year bond.
From a cost perspective if both bond questions are approved, constructing as one project results in lower design fees, bidding costs, and the costs associated with construction administration, construction mobilization/demobilization, and setting up temporary facilities (job trailers, material storage, etc.). There is also the advantage of receiving better construction pricing and better lending rates if we package the project into one bond in the current economy. If we phase the project, we could receive less competitive bids and lending rates, as the economy improves over time.
From an operational perspective, doing the work in multiple projects would result in more interruptions on the campus and more staff time spent coordinating with the construction. And one of the objectives of the construction timeframe is to cause the least disruption to student academics as possible.
Why renovate and build now? Can’t we wait?
Freeport High School has the capacity to hold 500 students. The current enrollment is 540 students. The school is overcrowded now, and will continue to experience enrollment growth as students from Durham, starting with the current freshman class, who no longer have the choice to attend other high schools funded by tuition dollars at the public’s expense.
In addition to those students coming from Durham, New England School Development Council (NESDEC), the body that analyzes and prepares statistics on enrollment projections for New England school districts, predicts that 688 students will be attending FHS by the 2021-2022 school year. Statistical calculations to project future enrollments are made using a variety of factors including birth rates in the towns, and existing enrollments in lower grades.
To further support these analyses, student enrollment in the RSU for the 2012-2013 academic year is 50 students more than was projected in the school budget last year. That is a growth of 3 percent. The RSU5 communities are clearly attractive places for families to live.
Students in the school are filling classrooms beyond desirable numbers. Students are sharing desks. The cafeteria is undersized for the current population. There are courses that teachers would like to offer but can’t, because of limited classroom availability. Safety issues exist at the front entrance, areas of the building currently do not meet ADA compliance, and the condition of athletic facilities currently limits wellness and athletic program needs. If the base project bond is passed in November, it will take nearly 3 years to complete the project.
In short, overcrowding, programming limitations, safety issues, and poor athletic facilities exist now. A competitive construction and lending market make this a good time to move forward. We cannot afford to wait.
What has been done to make this an energy efficient project?
This concept design includes cost-effective energy efficiency and environmentally friendly considerations. Specific elements include:
- High performance T-5 light fixtures
- Maximizing natural cool daylighting
- Maximizing exterior envelope insulation
- Air barrier system to prevent infiltration
- Low transmittance glass to reduce UV radiation
- Daylighting controls on artificial light
- Reflective, light colored roofs
- Demand control ventilation
- Ventilation heat recovery systems
- Solar hot water preheating system for domestic H2O
- High performance under slab vapor barriers
- Low VOC finishes
Further energy-efficient components will be considered during Final Design.
Why do we need a turf field? Why don't we just repair the existing fields?
Over a two-year period (2011 and 2012), 24 high school soccer games had to be relocated to other fields and facilities due to unplayable and unsafe field conditions at the Freeport High school field. Our primary field remains unplayable and unsafe even several days after receiving rain. The field lacks adequate drainage because of grading and the presence of low permeability site soils (clay). In order to improve site drainage, the field needs to be properly graded by raising it several feet and by adding free-draining soil material as a drainage layer. This is a significant expense regardless of how we surface the field. Once the regrading and drainage layers are constructed, a finished surface is still required and can be seeded grass, sod or artificial turf. Sod would be recommended over seeding because it would be ready for use much faster than a seeded field (seeded fields can require as much as 2 years before the grass is sufficiently established for heavy use). Sod however, is expensive, as is the continued maintenance (mowing and irrigation) of any grass field.
There are several basic benefits to turf over grass. These include:
• Better water absorption (turf can hold up to 10 inches of rain), thus there is more play time,
• better shock absorption,
• superior traction even in the rain,
• reduced maintenance costs (no mowing, re-seeding, irrigation or chemical treatments needed), and
• according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, a turf field is a safer playing surface than grass.
A turf field has the ability to withstand heavy use and does not have the hazards of mud and water. Limited field space and heavy use at Freeport High school make turf an ideal surface choice. Replacing existing fields with turf increase the practice time and playing time significantly. A turf field will alleviate the need to relocate, postpone, or cancel games due to poor field conditions and will enable teams to utilize the field earlier in the spring season. Although a turf field is more costly to install, it is less costly to maintain than grass, even in consideration of the life expectancy of turf. A turf field will reduce the cost of maintenance by approximately $181,000 over a 10 year period.
And finally, even if the existing fields were repaired, at an estimated cost of $473,000, they would not hold up to the amount of use that is required. Making these repairs as part of the base project will still require using other facilities within our three communities. To get the same level of use that a turf field would provide, two additional grass fields would be needed, each at a cost of about $473,000. This excludes the cost to purchase and possibly clear the land, if they could not be located on existing RSU property. RSU5 spends approximately $23,000 per year maintaining the grass fields. Annual maintenance cost for a turf field is approximately $5,000. With (two) new grass fields comes the higher annual maintenance costs for each.
Why do we need a track?
The addition of a track will satisfy unmet physical education and athletic program needs in the high school and wellness needs/activities for the RSU5 community. The track team is currently bused to Bowdoin College for practices and cannot host meets. A track located on campus will provide student athletes more time devoted to practice and less time devoted to travel. This will have a positive impact on academics and family time. A track will enable RSU5 to host track meets at our facility which will enhance fan support and community spirit.
Adding a track will bring the athletic facility in line with other schools of its size. Of the 33 schools in Class B, Freeport High School is one of 3 schools without a track. All Class A schools have a track. Of the 63 class A and Class B schools in the state of Maine, 95% have a track; it is not a luxury, it is a standard component of a high school of our size in the state of Maine.
In order to provide a 21st century educational and athletic experience, a track has become a fundamental component of a school district’s high school facility. The beneficiaries are not limited to the students on the team or in the wellness classes. The community benefits as the track is available to walkers, runners and community wellness programs.
What about the Hunter Road Fields? Why don’t we just use those fields?
The Hunter Road fields
were constructed by the Town of Freeport to address field capacity needs for
regional and town youth and adult recreation, as identified in a 2009 report
prepared for the Town of Freeport by Milone and MacBroom. The fields were not constructed to address the
need for high school athletic fields. This past fall, there were 25 youth soccer
teams playing a total of 84 games on the new Hunter Rd Fields. This spring
there are over 35 youth teams utilizing the Hunter Road fields. The facility is providing exactly the type of
support and opportunity that it was intended for, but it was not intended to
replace RSU5 high school athletic fields. Even though the Hunter Road
fields relieve some pressure on the school fields, there is still an unmet need
for adequate competition and practice fields at the high school. (See FAQ “Why
do we need a turf field? Why don’t we
just repair the existing field?”).
Why include the bond upgrade now when the Campus Complex was voted down 2 years ago?
The primary reason is need; we need to fix the fields and we need a track.
The committee felt strongly, and the RSU Board agreed, that quality academic and athletic facilities are both critical to a high school education. A competitive construction and lending market make this a good time to move forward on all aspects of the high school needs. Now is the time, not just for the school building, but for the athletic facilities, too.
Feedback regarding why residents did not support the previous Campus Complex included:
- Concern that the plan put forth was not comprehensive; it did not address the needs of the high school building in terms of renovations or future growth;
- Confusion existed between the proposed Campus Complex, the proposed Seacoast United project, and the fields that the Town of Freeport was planning to build at the time at the Hunter Road site
This project incorporates a comprehensive plan that addresses the high school building and overall site including traffic patterns and parking, and the athletic deficiencies.
The track/field component of the current plan is different from the previous Campus Complex plan.
- Components of the athletic facilities have been removed and rearranged to support the comprehensive plan for the site
- Several parts of the Campus Complex were eliminated from the taxpayer funded portion of the project including field lighting, bleachers, concession stand, press box, storage garage, softball dugouts and public announcement system.
- The overall cost of the athletic component of this plan has been reduced from the previous Campus Complex plan.
Please see the FAQs “Why do we need a turf field? Why don’t we just repair the existing fields? and “Why do we need a track” for more discussion on the need for athletic facilities renovation.
What is the proposed timeline?
Following a successful November referendum vote, the timeline for the Renovation Project is anticipated to be as follows:
January, 2014 through September, 2014:
Design and Preparation of Construction Drawings (9 months)
October, 2014 through January, 2016:
Construct the 2-story building addition (allow 15 months)
Upgrade portions of the 1961 classrooms (summer months 2015)
January, 2016 through July, 2016
Renovate existing kitchen/cafeteria to become Art/STEM (allow 6 months)
Upgrade additional portions of the 1961 classrooms (summer 2016)
Construct new entry vestibule (allow 3 ½ months)
Full occupancy, September 2016
Site and Fields
April 15th, 2014 through October 15th, 2014: Construct track and turf field
March 15th, 2015 through August 15th, 2015: Construct softball field
March 15th, 2016 through July 15th, 2016: Final Site work
Has tuitioning out students been explored?
One strategy that has been mentioned to address the overcrowding issue is to offer students the opportunity to tuition out to other public and/or private schools. This option is more expensive, does not address all of the needs at the high school, and would potentially harm the school culture by forcing students out of the school they want to attend.
To make this a viable option, you would need to set a high school enrollment limit at 500. Our projections anticipate 650 students at the high school so approximately 150 students would be required to attend a different high school. At the current average tuition rate of $8,873.46 per student, the total tuition cost would be $1,331,019, annually. The approximate cost of the proposed project is $1.5 million in the first year, with slight decreases in future years. Thus while the annual tuition cost is only slightly less, it does not address the core building and site plan deficiencies nor does it improve energy efficiency.
There are several reasons why it typically costs more to pay tuition for students than to educate them in your local high school. Whether the school is full or not, the overhead costs are about the same in that you still need to heat, light, and maintain the space. There would be a reduction of some classroom teacher positions but generally not enough to offset the tuition costs. A classroom teacher is still needed whether you have 12 students or 20 students. The school buses still travel throughout the district. Custodians and nutrition staff are still needed to clean the school and provide quality lunches. There are some cost savings in textbooks and supplies, for example, but generally it costs more to pay for tuition.
Another factor when considering tuitioning out some students is the state's requirement that school systems have a plan to ensure the education of all their students. RSU5 would need to enter into tuition contract(s) with other district(s) for up to 10 years if we cannot provide for all of our students at Freeport High School. Other districts are allowed to require a set number of reserved "seats" in the tuition contract. If we did not have enough students attending that school to fill the "seats", we would still be required to pay the annual tuition costs for the full contract.
What is the cost to the towns?
The cost listed below is based on a bond of $14,638,009, the assumption that the loan would be provided by the Maine Bond Bank at an interest rate of 3.73 percent and a term length of 20 years.
According to the RSU5 cost sharing formula, the estimated first full year’s payment of principal interest and for each town would be:
- Freeport: $850,400 (65.98%)
- Durham: $276,077 (21.42%)
- Pownal: $162,398 (12.60%)
The payments would gradually decline over the course of the bond as the principal is paid down.
Using the property valuations and mil rates in force during the 2013-2014 tax year, the tax impact of the first full year of payment on the bond would be:
- Freeport: $38.82 per $1,000 in taxes paid, or $134.13/year per median residential property tax
- Durham: $55.94 per $1,000 in taxes paid or $136.05/year per median residential property tax
- Pownal: $50.41 per $1,000 in taxes paid or $180.63/year per median residential property tax
Bond Upgrade – Track and Synthetic Turf Field
The cost listed below is based on a bond of $1,718,891, the conservative assumption that the loan would be provided by the Maine Bond Bank at an interest rate of 3.56 percent and a term length of 10 years.
According to the RSU5 cost sharing formula, the estimated first full year’s payment of principal and interest for each town would be:
· Freeport: $152,086 (65.98%)
· Durham: $49,374 (21.42%)
· Pownal: $29,043 (12.60%)
Using the property valuations and mil rates in force during the 2013-2014 tax year, the tax impact of the first full year of payment on the bond would be:
· Freeport: $6.94 per
$1,000 in taxes paid, or $23.99/year per median residential property tax
· Durham: $10.00 per $1,000 in taxes paid or $24.33/year per median residential property tax
· Pownal: $9.02 per $1,000 in taxes paid or $32.30/year per median residential property tax
Can’t we get state funding for this project?
The last time the State of Maine accepted applications for major capital improvement projects was in 2010. This competitive program, run by the DOE, allows the neediest schools an opportunity to develop a cost sharing program with state funds to build or renovate schools. Of the 71 applications, only 3 have been given approval to proceed with planning at this time. Over the next two years, it is possible that another 3-4 schools which scored in the top 10 could be selected to participate in the cost sharing program. RSU 5 did not submit applications for any school projects in 2010, therefore, they are not on the list of 71 schools. Typically, only the top 10 schools over a four or eight year period are given funding.
At this time there are no plans for the Department of Education to solicit future applications for major school funding applications. PDT Architects has estimated that, because of the condition of the Freeport High School and its relatively new science wing and performing arts wing, the RSU could conceivably wait at least 20-25 years before being placed high enough on the state funding list to proceed with assistance from the Department of Education. Many other communities have given up trying to get high enough on the list and have chosen instead to proceed with locally funded projects.