2014-01-10 / Front Page

New year, new space

South Portland High School open for business
By Tracy Orzel
Contributing Writer


Gabby Ferrell, a junior and student representative to the South Portland Board of Education, cut one of two ribbons during the ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Sunday, Jan. 5. (Tracy Orzel photo) Gabby Ferrell, a junior and student representative to the South Portland Board of Education, cut one of two ribbons during the ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Sunday, Jan. 5. (Tracy Orzel photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – On Monday, Jan. 6 South Portland students came back to a different high school than the one they left before winter break. After a year and a half of construction, the first phase of the South Portland High School addition and renovation project has been completed.

The addition includes a new kitchen, cafeteria, lecture hall, library, administrative offices, classrooms, weight and fitness rooms, locker rooms, a technology education room, a robotics room and a renovated Beal Gym.

The project cost $47.3 million and was funded through a $41.5 million bond approved by voters in November 2010 and reserve funds in the school budget.

Superintendent Suzanne Godin said support for the project was critical.


Top, after 19 months of construction, the new addition to South Portland High School was opened to students Monday, Jan. 6. The $47.3 million project included a new kitchen, cafeteria, lecture hall, library, administrative offices and classrooms. Bottom, during the ribbon cutting ceremony, PC Construction Project Executive Joe Picoraro noted the project averaged 100 workers per day and peaked at 150 during busier times. (Tracy Orzel photos) Top, after 19 months of construction, the new addition to South Portland High School was opened to students Monday, Jan. 6. The $47.3 million project included a new kitchen, cafeteria, lecture hall, library, administrative offices and classrooms. Bottom, during the ribbon cutting ceremony, PC Construction Project Executive Joe Picoraro noted the project averaged 100 workers per day and peaked at 150 during busier times. (Tracy Orzel photos) “We had two referendums. The first referendum, the community was not supportive of the project as designed so we went back and redesigned the project. After people started seeing issues in the building, they were very clear that we needed to have this project,” Godin said.

Some of the issues included mold and air quality, asbestos, traffic concerns, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance issues, heating and cooling issues, ventilation, technological updates and additional learning spaces.


Although approximately 885 students are currently enrolled at the high school, the new addition was built to accommodate 1,100. (Tracy Orzel photo) Although approximately 885 students are currently enrolled at the high school, the new addition was built to accommodate 1,100. (Tracy Orzel photo) Building Committee Chairman Ralph Baxter said safety was a top priority during the planning stage.

“I think there was either 21 or 23 places of egress that people could get into. Now we’ll be down to two and they’ll be all secured,” Baxter said. “When you walk into the main lobby, you’ll be in an area that’s secured and you won’t be allowed into the rest of the building until you are able to show that you should be in the building.”

Teachers have a separate entrance and cards to swipe to gain access into the building; however, Baxter conceded no method is foolproof.

“In the school shootings you hear about, (the schools) have some security systems in place that were breached by just brute force of weapons, but no one’s solved that problem yet. But we think we’ve done a good job of making it safe,” Baxter said. “The claim is that there’s not going to be a place in the school you can go – aside from the bathrooms – that there’s not a camera that can’t see you.”


Top, A ribboncutting ceremony and open house was held Sunday, Jan. 5 to mark the completion of the Phase I and allow students and their families a chance to explore the new addition. Left, Building Committee Chairman Ralph Baxter said safety and security was a major concern when designing the addition. Among the issues that needed to be addressed were mold, air quality and asbestos. (Tracy Orzel photos) Top, A ribboncutting ceremony and open house was held Sunday, Jan. 5 to mark the completion of the Phase I and allow students and their families a chance to explore the new addition. Left, Building Committee Chairman Ralph Baxter said safety and security was a major concern when designing the addition. Among the issues that needed to be addressed were mold, air quality and asbestos. (Tracy Orzel photos) Thanks to the added leg room, each teacher now has their own teaching space and there are a number of small classrooms ideal for study groups, meetings and group projects. The addition is also outfitted for future technology.

“We built in extra capacity for a conduit and wiring in places for things to be run … through the ceilings,” Baxter said. “All that capacity is just laying there waiting to be used when it’s appropriate, where it’s needed to be used.”

Godin credits the timely success of Phase I to the working relationship between the school, contractor and architect.

Designed by architectural and engineering firm Harriman Associates, PC Construction broke ground on the project in May 2012.

Though there were few setbacks during the course of construction; ledge was discovered after the project had already begun. In order to drive the piles into the ground, the ledge had to be removed by crews first.

During the second phase of the project, Baxter said renovations will be made to the original part of the building over the course of 2014 and the existing annex will be pared down by the middle of February.

“Phase II has the potential to be more complicated because of the renovation and we’re going to be going in a building that we know has asbestos in it and you don’t know exactly what’s under some of the places we’re going to be touching,” Baxter said.

Due to safety concerns, Mountain View Road will be closed until December 2014.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house was held at the high school on Sunday, Jan. 5 to mark the completion of the Phase I and allow students and their families a chance to get acquainted with their new school.

Senior Jamie McDonald said the new addition exceeded her expectations.

“I feel like it’s a lot better for us, like, space-wise. It’s really crowded in the halls when you’re walking, and it gets really frustrating and sometimes you’ll even be late to class,” McDonald said. “I think it’s going to be pretty awesome having all the room and the classrooms are a lot different … they were just kind of – they were too rundown for us.”

Though McDonald will graduate before Phase II is completed, she said she will definitely come back to see the finished product.

“It’s stunning when you see what it looks like inside,” Baxter said. “It reminds you – when you walk back through the unrenovated part, especially the annex, what our kids were being educated in versus what they’re going to be educated in.”

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