A brief history of the challenges and solutions

Since 2008, student enrollment in Yarmouth Schools has increased more than 17%, from 1,393 nine years ago to today’s student count of 1,636. Two separate studies by independent researchers indicate that this trend is not going to end soon, and by 2027 Yarmouth may see enrollment of approximately 1,970 students. This is significantly higher than the total school building capacity and requires immediate attention.

To address these concerns, the School Committee formed a Facilities Assessment Committee. After a year of working with architects and engineers from Harriman, the Facilities Assessment Committee identified six options to address the facilities needs of the district, recommending “Option 4”, which calls for:

  • An expansion at Rowe School to accommodate enrollment growth in Kindergarten and Grade 1, as well as address the likelihood that the State will be mandating that local school districts become responsible for administering programs for 3- and 4-year olds who are currently served by Child Development Services.
  • An expansion at Yarmouth Elementary School to accommodate enrollment growth, as well as a complete renovation of the existing facility to bring it up to current standards and ensure its viability for decades to come. As part of this project Grade 5 will be relocated to YES, reducing the scope of the construction project needed at the Middle School.
  • A small expansion at Harrison Middle School to account for enrollment growth, allowing for the removal of the portable classrooms that have been on-site almost from the day the school opened.
  • An expansion at Yarmouth High School to account for enrollment growth and evolving programming (e.g. robotics and STEM).

The School Committee approved the formation of a Facilities Committee to continue this work and held four public forums throughout the 2017-2018 school year to explain the results of the study, share the options studied, and hear feedback from the community.

A difficult market creates rising costs

Earlier this month, the Committee received very disappointing news. Due to growth in the southern Maine market, an unstable labor force, a lack of qualified bidders on construction projects, and rising materials costs across the country, the proposed project is no longer close to the $35m target that had been identified earlier in the year. The Committee set about adjusting the plans and prioritizing the schools’ needs further. The result is a modified Option 4, now known as Option 4B, which greatly reduces the scope of the projects, bringing the total estimate for current work under $40m as follows:

  • YES and YHS will receive the expansions described above to handle enrollment growth, and YES will be updated to perform, look, and feel like a new school.
  • Little to no work will be done at Rowe or HMS in this proposal.
    • Rowe’s greatest needs come from the likelihood of adding pre-K or CDS services within the next few years, but because those needs are not present at the moment, the Committee was able to put the construction needs at Rowe School further down on the list of priorities. Rowe will receive much-needed minor bathroom improvements.
    • Minor exterior work will bring some egresses up to code at HMS. The Middle School will experience some relief from overcrowding by moving Grade 5 to YES, but it is most certain that some classes will still be taught by teachers moving from room-to-room, in portables, or in hallways.
  • Rowe and HMS will likely require expansions within the 3-5 years following the completion of YES and YHS. Those projects are estimated to cost $10m.

The benefits of this plan are:

  • Three schools will experience some relief as soon as construction is completed; YES and YHS will be expanded to meet enrollment needs, and HMS will see a reduction in the number of grades attending the school from four to three, as the fifth-graders will move to YES.
  • The impact to the taxpayer will be staggered, with existing debt service being retired prior to the potential second round of construction (for HMS and Rowe).
  • While critical needs at YES and YHS are addressed now, construction at HMS and Rowe may be done during more favorable market conditions – though this is difficult to predict.

The downsides of such a plan include:

  • It may be more difficult to pass a second bond within a few years of this project and the potential public safety building that is currently being planned by the Town.
  • Students at Rowe and HMS will continue to experience classrooms in portables or other makeshift spaces, and some teachers will be teaching “on a cart” as they move from room to room.
  • Options for adding pre-K, responding to the potential state mandate of adding Child Development Services to the local programming, and expanding world language offerings will continue to be limited by the school facilities.

Following are descriptions of the proposed work at YES and YHS as part of this bond project.

Yarmouth Elementary School

YES is the oldest building in the district at more than 60 years. However, it is in good shape structurally, and it is believed that a major renovation of the existing building will provide the upgrades needed to keep the school viable for decades to come. Enrollment growth at YES continues to be significant, requiring a large addition of classroom and core spaces. In order to avoid a similar expansion at the Middle School, it was decided to shift Grade 5 from HMS to YES as part of this project.

As illustrated below, the entire existing building (lightly shaded) would receive upgrades to all systems (electrical/plumbing/building envelope/interior surfaces, etc.), while a large expansion would provide for the additional classrooms and core spaces necessary for a larger student body. By renovating and expanding the existing school, the Committee was able to preserve Winslow Field and play spaces along McCartney Street and reduce the overall cost of these projects significantly (as compared to construction of a new school to replace YES). Increased parking and improved security features will complete the transformation of YES into a modern facility.

The capacity of the expanded school will be 689, with a projected enrollment in 2027 of 612.

Yarmouth Elementary School – First floor

Yarmouth Elementary School – Site plan

Yarmouth High School

The High School is the only school in the district that does not provide a security vestibule connected to the main office for school-day entrance into the building. By relocating the main entrance to the Southeast side of the building, a more secure entrance is created. An efficient plan for enrollment growth includes removing the fitness room from the center of the plan, allowing for expansion of the cafeteria. The fitness room will be recreated next to the gymnasium. Expansion of the performing arts areas will take place next to the Performing Arts Center, and a two-story classroom addition will extend off the current academic wing on the Northeast side of the building.

Areas shaded in orange on this diagram indicate spaces that will be re-assigned or renovated for new purposes. Moving the athletic offices to new spaces next to the gymnasium will provide space in the middle of the plan for needed guidance counselors and social workers, while other spaces throughout the school will be reassigned for purposes such as special education, robotics, and regular classrooms.

The capacity of the expanded school will be 654, very close to the projected 2027 enrollment of 653.

Yarmouth High School – First floor

Parking will be increased by adding spaces in each of the existing lots, as illustrated by the shaded areas in the illustration on the following page.

Yarmouth High School – Site plan

The estimated cost of these projects stands at $39.5m as of today. This does not include work to be done in future years at HMS or Rowe. Those numbers change daily, but the Committee is confident that the estimate is within a percentage point or two of where we will be for a November referendum.

We will be scheduling more public forums beginning in September, where we hope to see many of you.

More information about these projects may be viewed on the Facilities Committee portion of our website (http://yarmouthme.apptegy.us/o/ysd/page/facilities-committee).