New Skowhegan school design provides more space to students needing extra services

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The Skowhegan school system’s new consolidated elementary school is being designed to better serve its higher than state average population of students that have unique learning and behavioral needs.

Roughly 23 percent of students in School Administrative District 54 receive special education, compared to the state’s 20 percent, Superintendent Jonathan Moody said.

For a school district that serves an impoverished area and had five schools on Maine Department of Education’s priority   list for state-funded school construction projects, the chance to build a new elementary is a big deal.

One of the schools, North Elementary, was ranked second out of 74 schools in Maine when the state released its list in August 2018. Designs for the new building include more Title I intervention areas for math and literacy coaching, expanded early childhood programming and quality spaces for teachers to collaborate.

“Kids right now are receiving services in spaces that are less than ideal,” Moody said. “You may have tutoring, speech and other things going on in the hallway. Sometimes we have kiddos working on a former stage or several of our schools have no bathrooms for staff.”

Roughly 115 educational technicians and paraprofessionals work at the district, and they leave their belongings in teachers’ classrooms because the old elementary schools don’t have space for them. The new building will provide dedicated areas for those employees and their things, and they’ll have more privacy to make important phone calls to parents, Moody said.