Building For Success: The D63 Master Plan
In December 2016, East Maine School District 63 finalized the major components of a Master Plan to address several long-term, ongoing challenges it has been facing. Ultimately, these changes will enable District 63 to better serve its families and the community.
- In August 2019, Gemini shifted from a junior high to a middle school model, serving 6th-8th grade students (as opposed to 7th-8th grade students as it does currently). What's the difference? A junior high is just that: a kind of pre-high school. Classes, learning styles, and curriculum all mirror the high school model. A middle school, conversely, strategically focuses on pre-teens and their specific academic, emotional, social, and physical needs.
- Also in August 2019, the District shifted to full-day kindergarten. With more time in the classroom, kindergarten students now benefit from an expanded curriculum that focuses on the whole child - one built around discovery learning and inquiry-based purposeful play.
- The District opened a new Family Resource Center - housed in the former Stevenson School, which closed due to District-wide elementary school redistricting.
- Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, our Dual Language Program expanded to serve grade 5 (previously, it had served grades K-4).
- We're giving First Steps Preschool room to grow. Since 2008, the population has almost doubled and is now almost 300, with continued growth projected. Currently, First Steps operates at Apollo, Melzer, and Washington Schools. With full-day kindergarten in place, our First Steps Preschool needs its own space - and room to grow.
- Stevenson, Nelson, and Apollo Elementary Schools no longer had the adequate capacity for the range of programs they offer, because capacity standards vary based on student, school, and community need.
- Conversely, Washington Elementary was underutilized; enrollment has been steadily decreasing, dropping to approximately 270 students by the 2018-2019 school year.
- As noted above, enrollment in the District’s First Steps Preschool continues to grow. Operating a decentralized preschool is also challenging, and classrooms aren't appropriate for preschoolers.
- With the shift to full-day kindergarten, space became an issue.
- There was limited space to expand the Dual Language Program.
In July 2015, the District launched a facility utilization study to assess how best to address these challenges. Specifically, the study detailed options for:
- Relieving the overcrowding.
- Addressing underutilization of Washington.
- Creating space in each elementary school for full-day kindergarten.
- Providing room for First Steps Preschool to grow.
- Creating the capacity to expand the Dual Language Program.
Based on this study -- and associated potential costs -- the East Maine School District 63 Board of Education moved ahead with the following projects, all of which create additional space in the District’s elementary schools for full-day kindergarten and an expanded Dual Language Program:
- Adding an addition onto Gemini Junior High, which now serves grades 6-8.
- Constructing a freestanding First Steps Preschool early learning facility on land south of Apollo Elementary School on Dee Road. Construction is underway and plans call for the facility to open with the start of the 2020 school year.
- Re-imagining the former Stevenson School as a Family Resource Center, housing D63's Expanded Learning Program, ELL and Special Education offerings, and providing professional development space for staff.
Costs and Funding
The Facilities Master Plan will not require additional property tax revenues – and the District will not need to undertake a referendum.The District has adequate funds to cover plan costs, using its existing tax revenue stream and bonds (a standard method of paying for facilities projects) to pay for the work.
- Adding an addition to Gemini to accommodate 6th graders: $34.5 million
- Construction of a new preschool: $17 million
- Redrawing attendance boundaries: $20,000
- Reconfiguring the former Stevenson School into a Family Resource Center: $120,000
- Implementing a full-day kindergarten: an additional $600,000 annually
Timeline (all dates tentative and subject to change)
To date, D63 has:
- Completed the transition to Gemini Middle School.
- Launched full-day kindergarten.
- Completed all sections of Gemini necessary to welcoming 6th-8th grade students in August 2019.
- Redrawn all elementary school boundaries and implemented these new boundaries in August 2019.
- Repurposed the former Stevenson into a Family Resource Center.
- Completed designs for the new First Steps Preschool and prepared to launch construction.
- Broken ground on the new preschool.
- Completed Gemini construction.
- Complete the Gemini athletic grounds (spring 2020)
- Open new First Steps Preschool facility (August 2020).