An architect’s drawing shows the proposed new entrance hall at MDI High School, with the new main office and two-story library on the left. IMAGE COURTESY OF OAK POINT ASSOCIATES

MDI High School renovation concept unveiled



BAR HARBOR — The idea of renovating and enlarging the library at Mount Desert Island High School and updating the six science labs has morphed into something much more extensive and ambitious. 

A preliminary concept plan developed by Oak Point Associates, an architectural and engineering firm in Biddeford that the high school hired in November, calls for adding a second floor to the library and adding a seventh science lab and a seventh math classroom, both on the second floor.  

The plan also involves closing what is now the school’s main entrance and making the entrance that is in the middle of the building the new main entrance, building a larger main office between the new main entrance and the library, and creating a wide set of risers beside the library to the second floor where students could gather. 

The wide entrance hall leading to the risers would be open to skylights in the roof two stories above. 

Principal Matt Haney presented the concept plan to the school’s trustees board on Monday. 

“The plan leaves the first-floor footprint of the library the same, and it leaves the courtyard intact because, if we expand the library out into the courtyard, we basically lose the windows to the classrooms on the other side,” Haney said 

“All the stacks for the library would be on the first floor, along with some small quiet spaces. The second floor would be more of an open area for larger group work, with two small breakout rooms next to that and a couple more on the first floor.” 

Haney said that, while the library and science lab improvements were the impetus 

for the project, the architects determined that other changes would be needed. 

“They discovered, in having to go to a second floor for the library, that they would have to do some structural work, which would render the (first-floor hallway) with the main office and nurse’s office basically useless, so they offered a redesign of that area as well. It was either tear it up and put it back the way it was or tear it up and put it back better. 

“There will be the same number of offices we have now, but they will be modernized and laid out in a more sensical way, as opposed to the labyrinth that’s back there now.” 

The entrance to the building that is nearest the theater would become the new main entrance, and the new main office would be just to the right as one enters. 

“We’re going to build an entrance that we can be proud of and that will be an obvious entrance to the school,” Haney said. “It will really impact the first impression on entering our school and certainly increase the functionality of our building.” 

As for the wide risers at the end of the entrance hall, he said they could be a place where students and adults gather informally during breaks in their schedule. 

“I really like all the light and having that riser space where students can sit; I love that idea,” said Rob Jordan, chair of the high school trustees, who have responsibility for the buildings and grounds. 

Haney said the architects developed the concept plan after reading the responses of teachers and students to surveys and conducting interviews with faculty and staff who would be directly affected by the changes. He said the plan reflects what have been identified as things the school needs “without regard to cost at this point, which was what they were supposed to do.” 

Trustees Vice-Chair Ann Ratcliff said of the architects, “They really listened well, and their questions have been good. I think they were ready from the start to see what they could do.” 

Haney agreed and said, “One of the things I’m really excited about is that they went big and they went nice with this plan. But they didn’t do anything that we didn’t identify as a need, other than the main offices, which they quickly identified as a necessity if we’re going to take care of the things we asked for. They were very responsive to the things we identified as priorities.” 

Trustee Lawson Wulsin said of the preliminary concept plan, “It’s awesome. I’m psyched. I’m totally sold.” 

The next step is for the Oak Point architects to come back to the high school trustees with a more detailed renovation and reconfiguration plan. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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