By Diana Bowley of the News Staff - DEXTER - SAD 46 directors inched closer to building a new elementary/middle school Wednesday when they voted unanimously to enter into a purchase option agreement with a Route 94 landowner.
That move this week came after about five years of discussions, studies and meetings.
"It's an exciting time. We still have a lot of work to do," SAD 46 Superintendent Kevin Jordan said Wednesday after the board meeting.
Directors voted to enter into an agreement with Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Fern of the Fern Road off Route 94 in Dexter for the purchase of about 48 acres. They also voted to enter into a separate purchase option agreement with Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Zabel for .19 acre for access to the 48-acre parcel. The two properties scored the highest of seven potential sites on a rating matrix.
Public hearings will be held soon on the site review and selection, according to Jordan. A straw vote will be taken at a public hearing to gauge public support, which is a required step before the site can move forward for approval at the state level, he said.
School officials received notification about five years ago that its application for a new middle school had been placed on a priority list for funding. When that notification came, district officials and community members moved forward to determine their needs in a new school and discussed where the school should be constructed.
Seven subcommittees worked on the project covering site selection and development, athletic fields, mechanical, technology, programs and space, moveable equipment and public relations.
Fifteen potential building sites were identified, including the Abbott Hill location where the Dexter Middle School and Dexter Primary School are located, but these were narrowed down to seven locations.
Then state education officials advised the district that it had to exhaust all efforts at regionalization before it received any funds. Months of discussions on regionalization were held between officials in SAD 46 and surrounding districts.
When those discussions produced no results, SAD 46 directors began looking at consolidation within the district such as a combined elementary and middle school. Both the Dexter Middle School and Dexter Primary School buildings are aged and have many structural problems. In April 2005, directors agreed to proceed forward with a building for kindergarten through grade eight. If that move is embraced, the outlying elementary schools in Exeter and Garland would be closed, Jordan said.
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