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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:              February 23, 2005

SUBJECT:       Major Capital Improvement Applications – Priority List

The Priority List for the next round of school construction is scheduled for presentation to the State Board of Education (State Board) on March 9, 2005, at the Augusta Armory.   That meeting begins at 1:00 p.m. with presentation of the Priority List appearing fifth on the agenda.   If you would like to view the agenda, please refer to the State Board’s website on or around March 2, 2005.   With the release of the Priority List I want to focus attention on the process that will follow.  

Priority lists are based on need.   Decisions as to how many projects can be funded will be made in the coming months.   For those projects that receive State funding, the solutions to their various needs will be developed during meetings with the Department of Education (DOE) staff, the State Board, and representatives of the local school unit.   The DOE and the State Board will be looking for projects that offer a 50-year solution, accommodate essential education programs including the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results, provide for good facility management and maintenance, accommodate acceptable student enrollments, eliminate leased space across a district and, in short, offer the best overall, long-term value for the district and the State.

In any given situation, and particularly where old, small schools are no longer suitable environmentally and educationally for students, no assumption can be made that the solution will be a simple replacement of the problem school.   In all cases, consideration of solutions will include, in addition to the items noted above, a review of other school facilities in the area and the distances involved, the degree of geographic isolation, and whether there are feasible opportunities for intra-district and/or inter-district cooperation.

Pending issuance of the Priority List and a determination of the number of projects to be funded, I urge you to focus with your school board or building committee on the primary objectives to be served by the project rather than on details of construction.   Our experience with the current cycle shows that the shape and nature of projects often changes during the course of discussions; premature commitment of significant resources may result in expenditures that are not germane to the ultimate solution, thus becoming unnecessary expenses for the districts and the State.

With 67 applicants seeking funding and with funds available to undertake only a small number of those projects, I am sure you would agree that every effort must be made to serve Maine students with projects that are responsive to student safety and learning needs.   We must also stretch construction dollars to address as many projects as possible.

Thank you for your commitment to providing Maine children with safe, healthy, and appropriate educational facilities.