Skip To Main Content

Project History

How Did We Get Here?

Scarborough Schools: Regrouping and Reimagining After Referendum Setback 

How’d we get here? How is it that we do not yet have a plan in place to resolve issues at our schools which have been studied and talked about for over 10 years? 

These issues include:

  • Needing space for a projected increase in enrollment.
  • Seeking permanent solutions for current space challenges.
  • Solving safety and security challenges at our buildings. 
  • Updating/replacing outdated inefficient mechanical systems
  • Providing our students with flexible space which allows for contemporary teaching and learning styles.

A lot has happened over the last 10 years since Scarborough started looking at how to fix our schools: 4 Superintendents, Covid, hybrid learning, safety and security becoming priorities and so much more. These factors, combined with inconsistent communication with the public, impacted the project.  In addition, public concerns around the pace of development in Scarborough were becoming more persistent. 

When the school plan was presented in the fall of 2023, many Scarborough residents expressed surprise and frustration at the proposed $160 million price tag, the chosen location in Scarborough Downs, and the prospect of shuttering local elementary schools in favor of a consolidated primary school. The result was a failed referendum, with 62% voting NO, and 36% voting YES. 

Here is an abbreviated timeline of how the School Department has worked to try to make our schools future-ready:

  • 2014-2016: Studies were done to identify options for the elementary schools, but enrollment trends were not clear enough to translate into actionable plans. The school department continued to make energy upgrades to the schools during this period.
  • 2017: The School Department began again to look at enrollment, and it was clear there would be a need to increase capacity. Over the next two years, the BOE worked to review the earlier options and focused on two options, which included a plan to build a consolidated K-3 school and another option to make improvements and expand capacity at the neighborhood schools.
  • January 2020: After reviewing the options thoroughly, the BOE voted  to work toward the consolidated school option.
  • 2020-2021: Covid was a major disruption in many things around the world, and had impacts on Scarborough Schools, including the work of the  Building Committee. 
  • Fall 2022: After a significant hiatus, the Committee regrouped to move the Consolidated School option forward.The Building Committee engaged Harriman in September 2022 as the Architecture and Engineering Consultant to develop the building plan and identify the best location for the new building.
  • Spring 2023: Plans for the new school were developed in spring 2023, and after an extensive search, land was identified in May (search criteria found here). The Building Committee chose a piece of land in the Downs which required considerable site work including a new roadway through an existing neighborhood to connect the new school with the existing Municipal campus. The cost estimate for the project was $160 million — $7M for the land, $7M for land improvements, $140M for the Unified School building, and $4M for a Middle School renovation. A bond issue was approved by the Town Council on Sept 6, 2023 for placement on the ballot.
  • The proposal was controversial with both sides laying out many reasons to vote Yes or No.
  • The referendum on the school failed with 62% voting No, 36% Yes.

Now the Town Council and School Board have returned to the drawing board to find a school solution that meets Scarborough’s needs.

  •  A new Town-wide survey will provide data regarding the community’s priorities around our schools. Surveys were sent to a randomized sample of address across Scarborough in early April 2024. The survey will also be open to the public for additional input.
  • The citizen-led School Board Advisory Committee (SBAC) will advise and assist the School Board and Town Council at the ground level of the planning process. Its charge is to provide recommendations for ways to address the  current and future facilities deficiencies in our K-8 schools.
See Also: 


Contact Us

School Building Advisory Committee (SBAC) meetings are held weekly on Mondays, 6:00pm EST. For more information on meeting details, see the School District Calendar.