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.
- Shift from a junior high to middle school model at Gemini and serve 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.
- Shift to a full day kindergarten. With more time in the classroom, kindergarten students will benefit from an expanded curriculum that focuses on the whole child - one built around discovery learning and inquiry-based purposeful play.
- Give 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.
- Redraw elementary school boundaries to better balance the student population.
- Expand the Dual Language Program beyond grades K-4
- Stevenson, Nelson, and Apollo Elementary Schools no longer have adequate capacity for the range of programs they offer, because capacity standards vary based on student, school, and community need.
- Conversely, Washington Elementary is underutilized; enrollment has been steadily decreasing, dropping to approximately 270 students this 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 planned shift to full day kindergarten, space is an issue.
- There is limited space to expand the Dual Language Program.
In July 2015, the District launched a facilities 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 capacity to expand the Dual Language Program.
Based on this study -- and associated potential costs -- the East Maine School District 63 Board of Education will move ahead with the following projects, all of which will 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 currently serves grades 7-8, and shifting all District 63 6th grade students to this middle school.
- Constructing a freestanding First Steps Preschool facility on land near the District Office and Apollo Elementary School at Central and Dee.
- Redrawing district boundaries to better distribute the K-5 grade population in the District’s six elementary schools.
- 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: $33 million
- Construction of a new preschool: $14.5 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:
- Launched construction on Gemini; it will be ready to recieve the 6th graders in August 2019
- Completed the transition to Gemini Middle School.
- Prepared to launch full-day kindergarten in August 2019
- Made a final decision on new elementary attendance boundaries.
- Begun repurposing the former Stevenson into a Family Resource Center which will be ready in August 2019
- Completed designs for the new First Steps Preschool.
- Breaking ground on the new preschool (July 2019)
- Launch of our middle school - and full-day kindergarten (August 2019)
- Open the Family Resource Center (August 2019)
- Complete Gemini construction (winter 2019)
- Open new First Steps Preschool facility (August 2020).