BELFAST — Recent water damage discovered at Capt. Albert Stevens School has forced administrators to think outside the box to fine alternative space for 11 classrooms of students and teachers.

Regional School Unit 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean, speaking Aug. 30 at the United Farmers Market of Maine at Miller and Spring streets, said the school will temporarily relocate most students to the indoor farmers market while CASS is under construction.

The water damage was discovered two weeks ago in several classrooms, student restrooms, the library, guidance department, two hallways and two resource rooms, she said. The school will be displaced for at least two weeks, the superintendent estimated.

In a letter to parents on the school’s website, McLean said that during a recent torrential rainstorm, a tarp came off a roofing project at CASS, causing extensive damage as buckets of water came into the building. Because of this setback, the start of school will be delayed until Tuesday, Sept. 7. The CASS open house has also been postponed to Friday, Sept. 3.

Teachers from Capt. Albert Stevens School listen to Principal Glen Widmer, out of camera range, as they make plans for relocating to the United Farmers Market of Maine while repairs are made to their school. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

“Twenty staff members — who are back at work this week — have been temporarily displaced from their classrooms and office spaces,” McLean said. “Four hundred boxes of library books have been packed in boxes and will be moved tomorrow. Plumbers are here now ripping out bathroom fixtures, and ServPro are here constructing temporary containment areas.”

She went on, “The State Fire Marshall did not approve our initial plan to keep all the students at CASS, so we are moving 11 classrooms of students and staff to the United Farmers of Maine beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 7, for 2 – 3 weeks.”

Speaking about the temporary location at the farmers market, McLean said the advantage of the indoor market building is that it can accommodate all needed classrooms in one facility, along with allowing for one drop-off and one pickup cycle for students. The building is also equipped with a HEPA filter and serviced by a custodian.

Many community partners have stepped forward offering to help, McLean said. “We are grateful for Paul Naron (owner) and United Farmers Market of Maine… . This is the best place.”

McLean said comparing the temporary facility with remote online learning, “this is much better… . We love to see our students face-to-face.”

Principal Glen Widmer and Assistant Principal Ashley Reynolds are dubbing the temporary facility the “Community Adventure School.” They plan to do lunches and recess in the park across from the facility and will also use Belfast Free Library and the Belfast Historical Society’s Museum in the Street kiosks as resources for outdoor learning.

Widmer said there has been a huge community outpouring, including offers of help from Coastal Mountains Land Trust, Tanglewood, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, Belfast Historical Society and Museum, Principal Jeff Lovejoy of Belfast Area High School, Bridget Matros of Waterfall Arts, and The Delta Kappa Gamma Society, among others.

The move will affect approximately 180 students, he said, with kindergarten, first grade and one second grade class able to stay at CASS while repairs are made. “We’ve closed off the upstairs,” he said, adding that air quality tests came back as safe.  “That’s why anything showing signs of moisture is being replaced,” Widmer said.

Reynolds said, “We’re so proud of our teaching staff looking at this creatively.”

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