‘Do not meet academic needs.” “Pose serious safety issues.” “Could not be more inequitable.”

That’s how Portland Public Schools described the city’s elementary schools back in 2011. My elder son was in first grade at Reiche, and we bought a house and moved to Deering Center shortly after. He’s now going into seventh grade at Lincoln Middle School, and his brother is starting kindergarten at Longfellow.

Still, students at these schools are taught in cluttered, crowded hallways and converted closets. Longfellow’s exterior is crumbling, and 30 to 50 windows there are permanently jammed shut; the school has asbestos and isn’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reiche has no walls between classrooms, so students have to wear noise-canceling headphones to be able to concentrate.

I appreciate Shoshana Hoose’s service to the district as communications coordinator. However, her recent Maine Voices column on the bond referendum to repair four crumbling city elementary schools is in direct conflict with the city task force assessments, my community and the research on what makes elementary schools successful.

The seven task forces convened by the city to study the elementary schools’ poor condition have repeatedly come to the same conclusion as the district: “These facilities lack the physical space and infrastructure to meet current education standards.”

My family has thrived in the strong communities created by both Reiche and Longfellow; however, we have experienced first-hand the learning challenges at both buildings.

Portland hasn’t made a major investment in its schools since I attended them 25 years ago. The city has spent the last quarter-century spinning its wheels – in the seven official task forces, six plans produced by architectural firms for the city, dozens of demographic, school capacity and other studies – instead of heeding the evidence and taking action to fix our schools.

Portland is an outlier in this respect. Communities all around us have been bonding locally to build new schools or renovate old ones, including Brunswick, Biddeford, Kennebunk, Wells, Westbrook and South Portland.

And now, opponents of the $64 million bond to fix four dilapidated Portland elementary schools are talking about closing schools instead of fixing them.

First, contrary to Hoose’s claims, elementary enrollment in Portland isn’t declining, and we don’t have a city full of half-empty schools. Enrollment has been stable since 2000, and the four schools included in the bond are so crowded that students are being taught in hallways, closets and trailers.

Second, research across the U.S. shows that closing schools can cause school budgets to soar because of costs related to the transition and increased transportation. School closures also cause property values to decline – the opposite of what we need in Portland, where smaller, high-quality schools would increase the city’s tax base.

Studies also show that closing schools is associated with poorer academic performance and parents having less of a connection to their children’s schools.

More expensive. Worse academic outcomes. Why would anyone be in favor of closing our beloved community schools? The truth is that very few people are. Not one member of the school board or City Council has advocated for the kind of plan that Hoose proposes, nor have parents, teachers or pretty much anyone else who has looked closely at this issue.

Parental involvement, smaller student-faculty ratios and closer student-teacher relationships are associated with higher student performance. Students report being more motivated and parents interact with teachers more in smaller schools, resulting in stronger and safer communities.

It’s been a long road, but a bond to repair all four of Portland’s most rundown elementary schools is finally on the ballot this November. This is because Progressive Portland and Protect Our Neighborhood Schools are bringing parents and community members together citywide to have a voice, to stand up to City Hall after 25 years of inaction, to better our children’s education and our city’s future. I’m proud to be a part of these two all-volunteer grass-roots organizations.

The state, not the city, has funded new schools at Hall, Ocean Avenue and East End. They are not going to keep buying our schools for us. It’s time for Portlanders to bring all of our schools up to the 21st century.

I hope you’ll join me to get the word out and to vote this November: “Yes” for the $64 million bond to repair all four run-down elementary schools. “No” on the competing, two-school alternative bond that cuts out Longfellow and Reiche.

Shouldn’t all the kids in Portland have the same educational opportunities, regardless of which neighborhood they live in? My family thinks so.