School officials are considering three different options to renovate or replace the aging buildings at Conners Emerson School. The Conners building, pictured, is 85 years old, and two of the options involve taking it down. Options ranging from $9 million to $32 million will be discussed at a community meeting on April 30. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Options presented for school building renovations

BAR HARBOR — Buildings at Conners Emerson School are showing their age, and the school board is considering three different options to fix or replace them.

Principal Barb Neilly presented the three options, ranging from $9 million to $32 million, to the Town Council at an April 2 meeting.

“We’re just beginning this process,” Neilly said. “We want to do this in partnership with the town.”

Neilly said she has had meetings with Town Planner Michele Gagnon, Town Manager Cornell Knight, and Finance Director Stan Harmon. The next step is to have a community stakeholder meeting on April 30 at the school.

The goal, Neilly said, is to decide on one of the three options and bring it to the voters as a bond issue in June 2020.

The first option, Neilly said, is to renovate both the Conners (elementary) and the Emerson (junior high) buildings without expanding. That would cost approximately $9 million.

The newer Emerson building “still has a pretty good structure,” Neilly told councilors, but the 85-year-old Conners building needs significant work. That being the case, the second option involves taking down the Conners building, and renovating and expanding the Emerson building to house both elementary and middle school grades. That is estimated to cost $25 million.

A third option, at approximately $32 million, calls for the razing of both school buildings, and constructing an entirely new facility.

“These are fairly significant numbers,” said Councilor Paul Paradis. He asked if Bar Harbor should look into consolidating with other towns. “Then there can be more state funding,” he said.

Kristi Losquadro, who chairs the school board, said that the school system is currently looking into a consolidated middle school, although that is still early in the planning process. “An island-wide middle school could take a while,” Losquadro said. “We can’t wait for that to happen.”

Neilly said last March that due to the age of the buildings, the town will have to fund costly repairs if they are not renovated or replaced soon.

“The reality is, in the next 10 years you’re looking at a total of anywhere between $8.5 million to $10 million [in repairs].”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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