January 3, 2013

Portland schools seek public input on $46M building plan

Voters will be asked in November to consider replacing Hall and renovating four other Portland elementary schools.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — School officials will hold a series of neighborhood meetings this month to hear residents' opinions on their effort to address more than $46 million in deferred maintenance and construction needs at five elementary schools.

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Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer: Bill Colby, left, top, of Colby Contractors in South Portland, receives a wood board from Aaron Gallagher, right, as the two work to seal the damaged roof of the Hall Elementary School before a storm blew in Tuesday, September 18, 2012, after a fire damaged the school earlier that week.

Gabe Souza

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The first of five planning and design sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Longfellow Elementary School, at 432 Stevens Ave.

The school board is developing a proposal to present to the City Council in June, asking it to consider borrowing money for school projects through the city's capital improvement program. If approved, the proposal will be presented to voters in November.

"The ultimate goal is to put the question of funding these projects on the ballot in November," said Jaimey Caron, board chairman. "We want to connect with the community to find out what people want for those schools."

Additional two-hour "charrettes" will be held Jan. 10 at the Reiche Community School, Jan. 15 at Lyseth Elementary School, Jan. 17 at Hall Elementary School and Jan. 31 at Presumpscot Elementary School.

All of the meetings will start at 6:30 p.m., except at Reiche, where the meeting will start at 6 p.m.

The meetings will be run by Oak Point Associates of Biddeford, an architectural, engineering and planning firm that was hired to develop improvement plans for the five schools.

Oak Point will consider comments gathered at the meetings as it creates preliminary building plans, construction schedules and cost estimates to replace Hall and renovate Presumpscot, Lyseth, Reiche and Longfellow.

At each meeting, the firm's staff will give an overview of Buildings for Our Future, a plan that addresses crowding, condition and equity issues in the five schools:

• Hall, built in 1956, has rotting wood siding and sills, roof drainage problems, a shared gym-cafeteria-auditorium, handicapped-access compliance problems and some asbestos in building materials.

• Lyseth, built in 1960, has aging modular classrooms to accommodate high enrollment, offers classes in closets and vestibules, and has no sprinkler system. It has a shared gym-cafeteria-auditorium, access-compliance problems and asbestos.

• Reiche, built in 1972, has an open floor plan that creates noisy classrooms and other instructional problems, roof leaks, access-compliance problems and a partial sprinkler system.

• Longfellow, built in 1952, has crowded classrooms, no sprinkler system, access-compliance problems, a small gym, lack of storage, crumbling masonry and asbestos, and most students eat in classrooms.

• Presumpscot, built in 1962, has aging modular classrooms to accommodate high enrollment and has no sprinkler system, limited storage space, a shared gym-cafeteria-auditorium, and access-compliance problems.

Participants will be asked to address questions such as: "What works well in the current school buildings and what improvements would you suggest?"

The City Council allocated $700,000 in the current capital improvement budget to develop a comprehensive proposal for $46 million worth of school improvement projects to be done over the next few years.

"When we go out to referendum, we want more than pretty pictures (to show voters)," said Councilor John Anton, chairman of the Finance Committee. "We want real meat on the bone, so voters have the best information possible."

Anton said the pending school projects are part of a rolling five-year, $150 million capital improvement plan that was developed in the spring to address long-neglected municipal and school building needs.

"Having a capital improvement plan is about being realistic," Anton said. "Deferred maintenance doesn't go away just because you don't do it."

The state covered most of the construction costs for Portland's new East End and Ocean Avenue elementary schools.

The state isn't expected to contribute to the pending school projects, though the Hall school ranked 12th on a list of Maine school buildings that need to be replaced, school officials said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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