Exploring all possible options of where to locate a new middle school, the RSU 14 Board of Directors have entered into an option agreement with the property owner of 61 Windham Center Road in Windham. By entering into the agreement, the owner is agreeing to take the property off the market for a period of up to two years.
According to RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools Christopher Howell, the cost of the option is $110,000 in the first year and if the board votes to move forward with a purchase of the property, $100,000 of the payment would be applied to the purchase price.
“The option to extend in the second year is $10,000 per month. None of the funds from the second year would be applied at closing,” Howell said. “Again, the agreement is an option to purchase and not an outright purchase. By entering into this agreement, the owner is agreeing to take a very valuable piece of property off the real estate market.”
He that the property at 61 Windham Center is just one of the properties that is being considered for use by the school district for the new school.
Earlier this month, the Town of Raymond officially offered to donate up to 45 acres of land at 77 Patricia Ave. in Raymond for the site of the new middle school to be built by RSU 14, contingent upon the school district’s approval of the location for the middle school construction.
“It will take a couple of months to work through the site selection matrix to narrow down all possible places where a building can be sited. About 132 possible 35 plus acres sites have been identified for review,” he said. “Each will need to be examined to determine whether or not it should be a site to look at. Some will be quickly eliminated due to location or if they have been placed into trust or conservation. It will be some time before there will be additional decisions will need to be made. Most of the work will be taking place behind the scenes.”
Once the number of potential school sites has been narrowed by the project architect and civil engineers, the top few sites from that process will be sent to a community straw poll in 2022, Howell said.
“A final site will be recommended by the RSU 14 Board of Directors next year,” he said.
The RSU 14 board will use the straw poll and input from the project architect and civil engineer to recommend a site for purchase to the State Board of Education. The state will reimburse the school district for the site purchase and the reimbursement will be based on the average of two appraisals on the property.
The original Windham Middle School was built in 1977 and intended for a capacity of 483 students. That number has grown in the last year to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.
In September, Raymond selectmen were told that the state has asked if Raymond would join Windham in sending students to the new school. Should the town not choose to do this, it is unlikely that the state would approve new middle school construction for Raymond in the future to replace Jordan-Small Middle School, which has 192 students and was originally built in 1960.
The Raymond Select Board offered the Patricia Avenue site to the school district so Raymond students could attend the new school, but Howell said that even if the new school is built in Windham there are no current plans to close Jordan-Small Middle School.
He said the district will continue to support Jordan-Small renovation work as part of its ongoing budgeting process
The new middle school is expected to be ready by the start of the 2026-2027 school year, Howell said. <