GOULDSBORO, Maine — A new school is taking shape in the local village of Prospect Harbor and should serve the community’s needs for decades to come, according to a local school official.

A new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade-school is under construction off Route 186 behind the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club and is on schedule to be completed by August 2009, Union 96 Superintendent Bill Webster said Wednesday. The school will house students from Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor, the two towns that make up the Peninsula Community School District, which is part of Union 96.

Webster said construction began in April. Approximately 170 students from the two towns attend school now in Winter Harbor. About 180 students, including children in pre-kindergarten, are expected to attend the new school next fall, but it is being built to accommodate up to 225 students, he said.

The new building will be about 40,000 square feet, Webster said, which is about 16,000 more square feet than the children now have in Winter Harbor. With modern features such as an improved security layout, science lab space, separate gym and cafeteria facilities with a stage in between, among others, the new school is expected to meet the two towns’ elementary school needs for the next 75 years, Webster said.

The overall project is projected to cost about $12 million, the superintendent said. Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor likely will have a combined share of about 10 percent, or $1.2 million, of the project’s costs.

The project is the culmination of mounting physical space concerns the two towns have faced at their elementary schools over the past several years.

Gouldsboro abruptly closed its former school in 2003 when mold problems were discovered at the Route 195 facility and moved its students to neighboring Winter Harbor, which had seen its school population drop dramatically with the closure of the Navy base in 2002.

The two towns, acknowledging that they could no longer afford to operate their schools independently of each other, decided to form the Peninsula Community School District in 2004.

By housing students from two towns, however, the Winter Harbor school building has been severely crowded. Insufficient space and other needed upgrades prompted the school district, with the state’s approval, to pursue the new building project in nearby Prospect Harbor.

In related news, Webster said Susan Gendron, the state’s education commissioner, has given conditional approval for Union 96 towns and others in eastern Hancock County to form a larger regional school administration district with Ellsworth. Union 96 towns include Franklin, Gouldsboro, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan and Winter Harbor. Other municipalities besides Ellsworth that are expected to be members of the larger district include Eastbrook, Hancock, Lamoine, Mariaville, Otis and Waltham, which currently are members of Union 92.

Webster said the proposed district’s regional planning committee has set Oct. 15 as a tentative date to meet at Hancock Grammar School to further discuss the proposal.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....