Regional School Unit 71 is casting a wide net in the early stages of plans for a new Tri-town elementary school. WBRC Architects has identified every property larger than 10 acres in Morrill, Searsmont and Belmont.

The Belfast-area school district's Board of Directors previously approved a plan to build a new elementary school in the next five to 10 years to replace two outdated and aging schools with space and infrastructure problems, Gladys Weymouth in Morrill and Ames in Searsmont.

Those schools currently split the elementary-level student population of the three towns with Pre-K through grade 2 attending Weymouth, and grades 3 through 5 attending Ames. The new school would serve Pre-K to grade 5.

WBRC identified 38 parcels of land 10 acres or larger in Morrill, 27 in Belmont, and 32 in Searsmont.

"It was very preliminary," RSU 71 Superintendent Paul Knowles said July 11. "They went out on these maps and identified parcels of 10 to 25 acres of land. That's it. Not all of these parcels of land are for sale."

The district also plans to advertise in an attempt to find landowners willing to sell, he said.

Knowles said the last "very rough" estimate put the cost of the new school at $15 million. Funding would probably come in the form of a bond, he said, similar to the $7.6 million approved by voters in 2016 for renovations to Belfast Area High School.

Some advocates for the new Tri-town school have said voters are more likely to reject a second multimillion-dollar bond after they've felt the effect of the first on property taxes. Knowles noted the district will have retired some debt by the time any funding proposal for the new elementary school goes to referendum, which could soften the blow.