About 30 people attended a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the $20 million replacement of Hall Elementary School in Portland, which has qualified for state construction funds.

The one-story school at 23 Orono Road was built in 1956, and the building has regular problems with drainage and rotting siding. In 2012, an electrical fire at the school displaced the 400-plus students for two weeks.

“I would say the message we’ve gotten from the community is full speed ahead,” said City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who is on the school building committee, which oversees the years-long process.

Replacing Hall is expected to cost more than $20 million, according to a study by Oak Point Associates, an architecture and engineering firm hired by the district.

Every few years, the Maine Department of Education seeks applications for state funding, evaluates and scores project proposals based on need, and issues a priority list that is the basis of capital improvement funding decisions for the next few years. Seventy-one projects made the list in 2011, and that list was later winnowed down to a smaller group of approved projects.

Hall is one of 12 school projects on the state’s Major Capital School Construction Approved Projects List. The project is at the beginning of a 21-step process that begins with outlining the initial school concept and local approval of the project.


The proposed opening would be in September 2018.

On Wednesday, parents told the Oak Point consultants what elements they want in the new school, from maintaining school security and keeping a beloved school aquarium to having classroom windows that look out on nature, not buildings.

Many elements are still to be worked out, including whether students will be relocated during construction.

Oak Point officials said Wednesday that the school’s 21.2-acre site has large swaths that can’t be built on because of wetlands or creeks. A new building would be two stories, and double the current 54,000 square feet of the old building.

The state money would pay for a basic school design, and local funds would be required for additional items. This fall, officials expect to put the funding question to voters, asking whether they want to accept the state funds and, in another question, whether they approve of local spending for additional elements that may be desired.

Under a tentative timeline, if voters approve, the project will need final funding approval from the state education commissioner in 2017. Construction would begin in May 2017 and the new school would open in 2018.

Portland used state funding to build the East End Community School in 2006 and Ocean Avenue Elementary School in 2011.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

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