Portland appears to have grown its way out of one of the thorniest political problems faced by the city – elementary school consolidation.

For years, a trend of declining enrollments and escalating costs led to calls to close one or more of the outmoded buildings and consolidate programs in new ones. It now appears that replacing Baxter and Nathan Clifford elementary schools with the new Ocean Avenue School – expected to open ahead of schedule and under budget in January – along with small but steady increases in enrollment systemwide, means that there will no longer be any overcapacity or underutilized mainland elementary schools.

Since 2004, elementary school enrollment has increased by 178 students, from 3,051 to 3,229 this fall.

That is good news for Portland’s neighborhoods, as well as for families with children too young for school who are making decisions about where to live. The city needs all the neighborhood schools it now has, and will for some time. Superintendent Jim Morse says he will not redistrict just to achieve economic diversity.

Now the task will be for school officials to continue their work to treat the schools as a system and not individual entities with different curriculums.

While the increasing elementary school population puts the battle of neighborhood versus consolidated elementary schools aside for the time being, Portland still has serious facility problems to face in the near future. However, none of them is as emotionally charged as the question of closing an elementary school.

The district’s central kitchen is expensive to operate and could be moved or closed, turning the lunch program over to a private contractor.

The West School building on Douglass Street is in need of extensive structural repair. It could grow into a regional special education program, but not without a major renovation or replacement of the existing building.

And Casco Bay High School continues to thrive within the Portland Arts and Technology High School, but it cannot grow in its existing space.

But in the meantime, Portland elementary schools are growing and fully using the available facilities, which should give these less volatile but still complex facility issues the attention that they deserve.