October 6, 2010

Portland schools may buy building for food service site

The district's central kitchen is 30 years old and located in a residential neighborhood.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Superintendent Jim Morse will ask the School Committee tonight for permission to negotiate the possible purchase of a building to replace the district's aging central food service facility.

Morse also will give an update on the new class schedule shared by Portland, Deering and Casco Bay high schools.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Room 250 at Casco Bay High School on Allen Avenue.

The district's 30-year-old central kitchen is in a 1950 addition to the former Reed Elementary School building on Homestead Avenue.

The food service staff prepares 2,500 meals daily that are delivered to students in the city's 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and Casco Bay High School.

District officials want to move the central kitchen because it's in a residential neighborhood and it's inefficient and more costly to operate than newer facilities, Morse said.

The district would borrow an undisclosed sum through the city's capital improvement program to buy a building that would be a good site for a central kitchen, Morse said.

The unidentified building is constructed specifically for food production and is in a commercial/industrial area, which is more suitable for a central kitchen, Morse said.

The building has some newer equipment than the existing central kitchen, including refrigeration, and would generate an estimated $30,000 in annual lease revenue from other occupants of the building.

School officials decided to pursue buying a building after determining that it would cost too much to build a new one – an estimated $6.5 million – and that renovating the 84-year-old Reed School building would leave the central kitchen in a residential neighborhood, Morse said.

The School Committee will be asked to authorize Morse to negotiate and enter into an option or purchase agreement, which would be subject to the committee's approval.

Regarding the new high school schedule, Morse said it's off to a modest but promising start.

Forty students are taking classes offered during shared first and fourth periods, which were created to increase sharing of students, teachers and costs among the city's high schools.

Twenty of them are Portland High School students who are learning to speak English. They're taking an additional reading class offered at 7 a.m., before regular classes start, to boost their language skills.

The other 20 students are taking classes at another high school in the district.

Among them, nine Casco Bay High students are taking classes at Portland High, including criminal justice, world religions, Middle Eastern studies and Latin; four Casco Bay High students are taking classes at Deering High, including senior English and chorus; one Portland High student is taking environmental science at Casco Bay High; and eight Deering High students are taking classes at Portland High, including Latin, band, chorus and American Sign Language.


Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: kbouchard@pressherald.com


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