I appreciate the recent articles on the referendum proposal to address repairs and renovations at Longfellow, Lyseth, Reiche and Presumpscot schools. I hope that as this process moves forward, voters will not balk at the seemingly large amount of money, but will consider what this investment in our schools truly means.

Portlanders who have raised families here might remember these schools when they were newer, but they have been virtually untouched in the past several decades. They are long overdue for new windows, doors, roofs and heating systems.

But beyond that, we must look closely at the demands of education today. When these schools were built, students walked home for lunch. Now they serve breakfast and lunch to hundreds of students each day – in gyms, hallways or classrooms.

Thanks to reforms in the past several decades, students of all abilities are now welcomed into their neighborhood schools rather than being bused to specialized schools. But there is a lack of designated space for special education services in these buildings, as well as services for English Language Learners, kids who need reading and math intervention, and students who need a quiet space during standardized testing.

Students in these four schools frequently receive academic services and interventions in hallways or converted storage closets. Some schools are not even Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, alienating students, teachers and community members who cannot use stairs.

We are putting students in these four schools in a precarious position when we are not able to give them what they need to perform in today’s highly measured education system. All of our Portland students deserve the opportunity to go to school in a safe and secure building that meets their educational needs. If we invest in this today, we will see the benefits in our future generation of Portlanders.

Jessica Marino