Rain held off as students, teachers, and community members gathered on the Bristol Consolidated School playground on Tuesday, June 13, to watch as the Bristol School Committee hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for building renovations and structural additions.
The $6.425 million project was approved by nearly 70% of Bristol voters in a March referendum with the unanimous support of the select board and a 10-1 vote by the town’s budget committee.
In addition to town funding, the school recently received a $250,000 anonymous donation to add additional features to the project, which donors said they hoped would encourage other community members to contribute as well.
Jen Ribeiro, principal at BCS, led the opening remarks of the ceremony and brought Darin Carlucci, chair of the Bristol School Committee, to the podium on Tuesday.
“The school committee is grateful for the overwhelming support the leaders of Bristol and the taxpaying residents have voiced for this construction project. We break ground today not just on a construction project, but on a renewed commitment to the young people of our town and to our shared future,” Carlucci said.
The first phase of construction is set to begin in mid-July, according to AOS 93 Business Manager Peter Nielsen.
Optimum Construction Inc., of South Portland, will be roughing in plumbing and electrical in parts of the existing building and will begin excavation for the new addition, Nielsen said.
Work will continue into the fall, and the contractors and school administrators are working closely to minimize any disruptions in the school calendar. Renovation and construction will continue in phases through 2024, according to Nielsen.
Bristol School Committee member Becky Cooper, who taught at BCS for many years, spoke next and announced that a development committee is forming to lead the capital campaign. Members of the committee thus far include Cooper, Tom Bishop, Bobby Ives, and Maryann Santos.
“The taxpayers of Bristol have provided the school with what is absolutely essential for the education of our students,” Cooper said. “We now offer those who may choose to give a bit more the opportunity to make the building and grounds an asset that can be used for all kinds of additional activities that will bring us together and strengthen our community.”
The project includes new electrical and mechanical systems throughout the building, a new wing of classrooms, and a new cafeteria that will double as a community space for the town.
Ives was the last to speak before students were brought up to break ground.
“This Bristol school, it is the heart and soul. It is the foundation of this community because our schools are the places where we educate our young people and that generation coming along,” Ives said.
After Ives left the podium, Carlucci retook the stage and announced that AOS 93 administrators have succeeded in a last-minute renegotiation of the interest rate on the construction loan, saving taxpayers over $130,000 over the course of repayment.
The administration has also submitted applications to Efficiency Maine to support the lighting and HVAC work on the project, and will continue to apply for other grants to keep the debt burden as low as possible, Carlucci said.
The school committee also announced that it received a private, anonymous donation intended to enhance the planned community space. A Bristol couple donated $250,000 to the project and asked that the money be used to add features to the modestly designed community space.
The donor also asked that news of their donation be leveraged to encourage other donors to follow suit and help make the building even better than currently planned.
In response, the school committee announced at the groundbreaking that it is launching a capital campaign to raise funds to make the new building more accessible and usable.
School committee members then presented shovels to students representing each grade.
The students, led by owner representatives Andy Jackson and Forrest Butler, of Peaks Island-based Dovetail Consulting — the firm hired to manage the construction project — identified the spot to start digging and officially broke ground, beginning work.
Among the enhancement goals being set for the campaign are the addition of a distinct entrance to the community space surrounded by a small parklet. Larger windows, interior finishes, improved lighting, cabinetry, and an upgrade to the flooring are also being discussed with the contractor.
If fundraising goals are met, a new parking area and outdoor playground and recreational equipment will be installed outside.
At the end of the ceremony, the wind picked up and Carlucci urged the kids to get back to class before they were blown away. The students, laughing, filed back inside of the school to resume their day.