2012-08-24 / Front Page

Progress on high school moves along as students ready

On the horizon
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Crews from PC construction work near Martin Field to establish the foundation for the renovated South Portland High School building. School officials say the construction’s effect on day-to-day classroom activities will be minimal. (Jack Flagler photo) Crews from PC construction work near Martin Field to establish the foundation for the renovated South Portland High School building. School officials say the construction’s effect on day-to-day classroom activities will be minimal. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – When South Portland High School students head back to school after Labor Day, they will begin to see the $40 million building renovation project voters approved in November 2010 take shape.

Crews from Vermont-based PC Construction began work on the 33-month project in May. According to the most recent construction update on the school’s website, those crews are now finishing the renovated student and staff parking lot next to Martin Field. Curbing and the surface coat of the renovated lot will be finished within days, and striping will be completed by the time students return to school.

South Portland High School Principal Jim Holland said crews have also done “extensive underground work” to lay the foundation of the renovated building, and now work will begin to “come out of the ground.”

Building Committee Chairman Ralph Baxter said all the blasting and pile driving is finished at the site, which means students and teachers won’t have to deal with the louder, more distracting work.

“I go over there every other day, it’s noticeably quieter, there’s not as much heavy equipment around,” Baxter said.

But even though crews have finished the brunt of noisy work using heavy machinery, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes to dayto day classroom activities at the high school this year.

South Portland Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin said “there will be adjusted patterns of travel” throughout the building when students return.

When construction crews begin work to the back of the building, near the auditorium where the new cafeteria will be, students will no longer be able to cut through the courtyard to eat, as they normally do now. They will instead have to walk through the halls around the building.

Holland said construction crews should not be too invasive this year, but students and teachers will see and hear the work going on at times.

“The impact hopefully will be minimal,” Holland said.

He also said he hopes the work can serve a learning purpose for teachers. As a former science teacher, he used the example of the equipment presenting an opportunity to teach about hydraulics.

Godin agreed that the impact this school year will be minimal as crews work on the back of the building. She said in late 2013 and early 2014, when the work moves to the front of the building and classrooms are moved, there are plans for a few portable classrooms. But there are no plans to move students out of their normal classrooms this school year.

“The project is on schedule. A lot of work has been done in the ground this summer and we’ll looking forward to steel going up,” Godin said.

The South Portland High School athletic facilities have also undergone a number of changes. Martin Field has been inaccessible this summer, which has moved fall sports practices to Wainwright Field. The South Portland High School marching band has held practices at Dyer School. Water and sewer lines are being reconnected at Martin Field, which will be ready for games during the fall sports season.

Meanwhile, Beal Gym will remain open through the basketball season, but the back wall is being completed and reconstructed to prepare for the new design of the school, which will wrap around the gym. Holland said the gym will close down for renovations after the winter sports season finishes in March.

But he said Beal Gym, along with the front facade of the building and the auditorium, will remain recognizable among the modern feel of the classrooms and other new parts of the building.

“I think it’s going to be a blend,” Holland said. “The character of the building and the historic elements will be there.”

Baxter said keeping those historic, recognizable aspects of the school was important to South Portland voters when they decided to approve a referendum that authorized renovations.

Three years earlier, South Portland residents voted down a proposed referendum that would have resulted in a separate gym being built. Baxter thinks that design feature is part of the reason the original plans didn’t pass.

“We got a lot of feedback that people wanted Beal Gym to stay, and the character of original building to stay,” Baxter said.

Godin said the current plan keeps some of the “vestiges” of the high school in tact, and Baxter believes that is at least part of the reason voters were more receptive to these designs.

“South Portland as a city doesn’t have a lot of landmarks. Compared to some other cities like Portland, South Portland’s are fairly limited,” Baxter said. “A lot of people have connections to the high school. It made a lot of sense economically to save those buildings and we got the sense people wanted to save them.”

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