2018-02-09 / Front Page

Cape outlines school upgrades

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Colby Company LLC and Scott Simons Architects have listed a number of projects during a review of Cape Elizabeth facilities. Included on a preliminary list presented at a school board workshop was a renovation of the entrance that leads to the gymnasium and cafeteria and auditorium section of Cape Elizabeth High School. (Michael Kelley photo) Colby Company LLC and Scott Simons Architects have listed a number of projects during a review of Cape Elizabeth facilities. Included on a preliminary list presented at a school board workshop was a renovation of the entrance that leads to the gymnasium and cafeteria and auditorium section of Cape Elizabeth High School. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – School leaders and parents in town know there are things that could be done to improve schools to make them a better place for students to learn and teachers to teach. The question, however, is what is the best way to make that investment.

The school department hired Colby Company LLC, an engineering and design firm in Portland and Scott Simons Architects in Portland, last summer to start looking at the schools in an attempt to answer that very question. Last week, the two firms met with the school board, members of the town council and parents to discuss their initial project list and review other concerns people have with school facilities.


Hannaford Field could get a new field house, complete with restrooms, storage, concession stand and ticket office, as part of a review of facility needs for Cape Elizabeth Schools. The field house project proposal is among a list of $3.5 million to $4 million in improvements at the high school. (Michael Kelley photo) Hannaford Field could get a new field house, complete with restrooms, storage, concession stand and ticket office, as part of a review of facility needs for Cape Elizabeth Schools. The field house project proposal is among a list of $3.5 million to $4 million in improvements at the high school. (Michael Kelley photo) “These are projects that need attention,” said interim Superintendent Howard Colter. “Don’t assume we have it all here. In fact, I know we don’t have it all here, to be candid.”

School board member Elizabeth Scifries said despite the good reputation of Cape Elizabeth schools, the school image “doesn’t present well” with the existing facilities.

“Our student and staff health and wellbeing are not being served by the buildings at this time,” she said.

James Hebert, a project manager for Colby Company, said one of the projects the firm has looked into is outfitting Pond Cove/Cape Elizabeth Middle School with a generator so that “even if you lose power in town, you can still function in the schools.” The high school already is supported by a generator. The two schools, along with the high school, are due for an upgrade to the information technology system. Some equipment in the Pond Cove/middle school building, Hebert said, is not ideally stored. The effort would also improve data drops in classrooms and WiFi areas around campus.

Another issue at the elementary/ middle school building, as Scott Simons Architects Lead Designer Seth Wilschutz explained, is the cafetorium, an inefficient space that serves as a combined cafeteria and auditorium for the two schools.

The space, he said, is a concern of kitchen staff and administrators at both schools because it is undersized, which means five lunch periods are needed to feed all students. In addition, the area has three different levels, which limits functionality.

Scott Simons Lead Designer Austin Smith said a combined cafeteria/ auditorium used to be a popular way to design schools but today it results in a “bad cafeteria and bad auditorium.”

“Immediately when I saw that cafetorium, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Colter said. “I still haven’t got used to it.”

The route for deliveries to the kitchen is also in need of improvement because as it exists now, people who make deliveries have to traverse hallways – along with students – to get to and from the kitchen.

To fix these concerns, Colby Company and Scott Simons Architects are suggesting to build a new cafeteria addition on open lawn space between Pond Cove School and Cape Elizabeth Middle School. The addition would have dedicated dining space for middle school students and a dedicated space for elementary school students and would create an enclosed courtyard that could be used for outdoor dining or outdoor classroom space. It would also move the delivery route to a place that would not impact students.

Wilschutz said an addition, rather than a renovation of the cafeteria, would allow the school to “keep all the current operation.”

“People can still eat meals there while we build the addition,” he said.

Susanne Measelle Hubbs, chairman of the school board, said the elementary school/middle school cafeteria situation is not “healthy or humane” for students.

The current cafetorium space, Smith said, would then be renovated into a new auditorium that could seat up to 650 people and be outfitted with an expanded stage and green room, offices, dressing rooms and control rooms where the kitchen is now.

Colter said the new auditorium space could be a “really impressive addition for the school and community.”

School board member John Voltz said another benefit of the new auditorium, if constructed, would be that it would provide a space where the entire Pond Cove or Cape Elizabeth Middle School student bodies could assemble, something that is lacking in the building now.

Another situation that needs fixing, Smith and Wilschutz said, is the main entrances to Pond Cove and Cape Elizabeth Middle School. Visitors have to walk down hallways to get to the main office to check in.

Smith said “while there is control and there is monitoring,” the public entering that space doesn’t come face to face to a staff member until passing a public access area (the cafetorium).

To that end, Smith suggests construction of a new entry/main office spaces between where the main entrances exist today.

This, Colter said, is “another obvious need.”

“It seems odd to me with the emphasis we place, understandably, on safety and security,” he said.

The team of consultants also looked into renovating the entrance to the high school’s first floor entrance that leads to the gymnasium/cafeteria/auditorium spaces. The entrance, Smith said, is the second most used one at the school and it once housed an outdoor amphitheater, something he would like to reestablish there. Just inside that entrance is another facility project the team has looked into. Wilschutz said the floor between the cafeteria and gymnasium is difficult to clean and the space has poor lighting. The situation could be solved by installing epoxy terrazzo flooring, which is seamless, doesn’t fade, is resistant to chemicals, can be customized with a logo or specific color pattern design and, if installed right, last 100 to 150 years. Wilschutz also recommends a wood-hung ceiling.

Right around the corner is another area that needs improvement: the weight room and locker rooms. Smith said the weight room is “drastically undersized” and the locker room facilities are unequal and lack a gender-neutral space. The plan to improve those spaces, Wilschutz said, would include a “minimal renovation of the existing locker rooms,” and a small addition that would include a expanded weight room, a multi-purpose classroom for dance or yoga instruction, a small meeting space and several areas for athletic storage.

The facilities at Hannaford Field were also highlighted. The proposal includes the construction of a new field house with a concession stand, small ticket office, storage space and permanent bathrooms. The site is served by portable toilets.

Consultants also presented an idea of constructing a 5,000-square-foot building for the facilities department somewhere on campus. As it exists now, the department is scattered in sites around town.

The projects outlined at the Jan. 30 session could cost between $21.8 million and $27.4 million, which would include $7.5 million to $9 million at Pond Cove/ Cape Elizabeth Middle School, $3.5 million to $4 million at Cape Elizabeth High School, $2 million to $2.5 million for a new facilities building, $2 million for the information technology system upgrade, $325,000 for the generator, $1 million to $1.2 million in kitchen equipment, $3.5 million to $4.4 million in soft costs, as well as up to $4 million in deferred maintenance that is yet to be defined. Soft costs includes geotechnical work, surveying, consulting costs and permitting. Wischutz said constructing a new school rather than doing this renovation work, would be much more expensive.

“It’s very preliminary, but that amount of money would take you almost to end of life for this set of buildings,” said Calen Colby, president of Colby Company.

School board member M. Nasir Shur said he would like to see cost estimates broken down by job so the board could weigh the priorities. Colby said that could be done, but Colter encouraged the board not to “piecemeal” the facility work or split it between multiple contractors.

Colby said the needs presented at the meeting, along with others, will be properly vetted throughout the monthslong facility update process.

Hebert said between now and the end of the school year in June, consultants will meet with school staff to understand their facility concerns and during summer will compile and analyze those concerns before starting the schematic design work in September, a process that would continue through the end of the year. A third party would then come in, look over the plans and provide a cost estimate for the proposed work. In January or February 2019, consultants would present back to the school board. In spring, the plan would be voted on as part of the 2019-2020 budget and if, approved, the plans would be finalized by the end of 2019. Construction documents would be issued in January, a contractor would be hired and construction would start in April 2020.

Voltz was not surprised by the issues brought up by staff from Colby Company and Scott Simons Architects.

“I didn’t know what would be on the list tonight, but after listening to all of this, I can say nothing on this list is a surprise to me at all,” he said, adding each of the projects highlighted “will improve learning, staff retention and benefit students.”

Hubbs said she is “grateful (the board) is having this discussion” to improve student and staff safety and give them a facilities they can be proud of.

“Tonight was the firsts step,” she said. “It was a conversation and preliminary thought gathering.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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