RSU 68 central office issue goes to referendum on Dec. 7

DOVER-FOXCROFT — On Tuesday, Dec. 7, residents of the four RSU 68 communities — Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Sebec — will head to the polls to vote on a referendum on the construction of a new central office building to be located on the SeDoMoCha School campus. 

Voting hours at the municipal polls are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Charleston, from 4 to 8 p.m. in Dover-Foxcroft, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Monson and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Sebec. These hours are reduced from what towns offer for state and federal election ballots.

The approximate $550,000 project cost will be covered by American Rescue Plan monies. The administrative offices on the second floor of SeDoMoCha Elementary School would be converted into two new classrooms and special education offices.

The project would create space for a new special education teacher to have her own classroom. Currently the educator shares space with another special education teacher.

“Last spring we were made aware that we were going to receive $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds,”  Superintendent Stacy Shorey said during a public hearing on the referendum at the SeDoMoCha School on Nov. 29. She said in August various stakeholders met over Zoom to discuss potential ways to use the funds.

“One of the items that came up most often was a special education classroom,” Shorey said. She said other expenditures being planned are stage lighting, new classroom furniture, thematic books for each grade and outdoor instruments.

Another $500,000 would be earmarked for replacing the middle school roof. “We thought this would be a great time to replace the roof with federal funds,” the superintendent said.

Shorey said an estimated $350,000 in ARP funds would go toward interventionists, starting with a math interventionist to work with the younger elementary students.

“We considered two options for creating more classroom space,” she said. The first would be an addition to the middle school quad, and the second is building a new central office.

The addition would cost an estimated $1.4 million for three rooms and two bathrooms, and the new roof would have to be patched with the current middle school roof. The central office would cost about $550,000, for two rooms, an office and a conference room. 

Shorey said it makes sense to look at a separate central office, which allows other funds to cover the new middle school roof and support staff requests.

“So state law requires that any public building that increases its footprint by more than 600 square feet must have a public meeting and take it to referendum vote,” she said. The superintendent said the proposed office is a little more than 2,000 square feet or three-plus times larger than the legal requirement.

Should the referendum pass by a district-wide vote, the school board would approve the tallies at the Dec. 14 meeting (moved back a week to account for the referendum). The building and roof would both go out to bid in February.

Shorey said the cost to taxpayers would be electricity and heating increases, estimated to be $1,000 annually. She said this figure is expected to be reduced by 15 percent per year as the district will share the solar power produced on top of the Jim Robinson Field House at Foxcroft Academy — currently under construction.

“It’s set up very similar to how the office is set up now,” Shorey said, with her office and space for the IT director, business manager and superintendent’s administrative assistant. The new central office would also provide ample storage space, with district files currently housed in four different locations.

The building would face the end of the elementary school and playground. There will be parking spaces and a handicapped-accessible entrance. Some new trees will be planted on site.

“What we really tried to do is make use of COVID funds by making purchases with one-time costs,” Shorey said about federal relief fund expenditures. She said projects carried out include $1 million for a brand new ventilation system in the middle school and updates to the elementary system, and $500,000 for generators to enable SeDoMoCha to be used as an emergency site.

An old Head Start building has been refinished to be suitable for 3-year-olds — this project has a $100,000 cost. Shorey said the district is anticipating in several years it will be responsible for children this age with special needs. 

The building will provide a pair of classrooms, therapy rooms and an office space. Shorey said the current thinking is there would be a regional program with other school districts. 

She said $250,000 in COVID funds have also been used to cover costs for a special education teacher and technology integrator.

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