SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland High School no longer has a library. Traditional heating equipment is absent from classrooms. Scratch the chalk boards and most of the lockers, too.
The public on Sunday will get its first look at the addition to South Portland High School, where what’s most notable about the multimillion-dollar project seems to be what’s missing – although sometimes it’s an absence in name only.
That place where they keep the books? Now it’s called a learning commons, with as much space for students and classes to meet and work collaboratively as there is shelving for books. Heat in the classrooms radiates from below the floor tiles.
White boards are interactive, and now can double as a television, or connect to students’ iPads.
And the lockers?
“No one uses them,” Superintendent Suzanne Godin said during a tour of the new building, which will be used by teachers and students for the first time Monday.
Only 90 lockers were installed.
“We really want these spaces to be interactive for the kids,” said Godin. “We did a lot of looking at colleges, the Portland Public Library, and at new schools.”
Starting with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. Sunday, the public will get to tour the new addition and see exactly what taxpayers’ money bought the city. Godin said the first phase of the renovation soaked up about two-thirds of the project’s $47.5 million budget.
On Friday, workers were still putting finishing touches on hallways and common areas. There was furniture to unpack, walls to touch up, and signs to hang. The smell of fresh paint was everywhere.
More important, throughout the three-story addition, new ways of thinking about education were obvious at every turn.
The interactive white boards will allow teachers to play videos, connect to the Internet, and pipe in a student’s iPad screen so that students can easily share their work with the class.
“It’s a new way of teaching,” Godin said.
Not all of the upgrades are technological.
Scattered throughout the building are group meeting rooms, roughly the size of small classrooms, that have work space and a conference room. During class time, teachers can break students into groups and use the auxiliary rooms for extra space. During free periods, teachers will be stationed around the school to give students individualized, subject-based help.
About a decade in the making, the wing is the first half of what will eventually be a nearly all new South Portland High School.
Planners hope it will support students for years to come.
The second phase of new construction will begin as soon as workers abate asbestos in the oldest part of the on Highland Avenue school, tear it town in February, and then rebuild a new structure in its place.
While the school currently has 885 students, the fully rebuilt high school will comfortably support 1,100, Godin said.
The second phase is slated to be completed by the beginning of the 2015 school year.
Construction was planned to coincide with a systemwide dip in enrollment but precede an anticipated influx as larger classes work their way through lower grades, Godin said.
The increased capacity is perhaps most evident in the cafeteria, where a new kitchen has four cash registers and an open layout to allow more students to be served at once.
The features are critical, Godin said, when 300 students have only 20 minutes to eat and clear out of the dining space.
Teachers are looking forward to resuming classes in the new space.
Freshman English teacher Bryan Hoy said that in his old classroom, the temperature swung from extreme to extreme. He had only one working window, and virtually no ventilation.
In his spotless classroom on Friday, Hoy was still trying to adjust.
He had much to learn about the interactive white board, but was pleased to finally have a new home.
“This is a huge upgrade,” Hoy said.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: