The Portland Board of Public Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a “scaled back” $12 million renovation of Lyseth Elementary School, the first of four elementary schools to be renovated under a four-school bond approved by voters.

“I know it’s not everything that we want, but it is so much,” said school board member Emily Figdor, who led the campaign to pass the bond and was elected to the school board in November. “I’m seeing these plans and the transformation of the space and it’s really exciting to me.”

The renovations come as the school district is undergoing a major review of all its facilities and classroom capacity in response to increasingly tight budgets. Within the next two months, a committee gathering information about building capacity and updated demographic projections – the district currently has 6,722 students – will advise the board on cost-saving options that could include moving programs, closing buildings or schools, or redistricting.

For the four-school project, school level and district level committees are working simultaneously, with public hearings seeking input from students, staff and community members on the designs.

At Lyseth, which has 491 students, the design being considered Tuesday would include removing the school’s modular classrooms and adding a classroom for pre-kindergarten.

Lyseth, when seen from above, looks like a backward capital “E” with two large empty courtyards between the existing rows of classroom space. The renovation would include adding an enclosed arched walkway through one of the courtyards to a new gym, which would include performance space. It also would have a new library, a reconfigured front entrance with upgraded security, upgraded utility systems and security throughout, and renovated walls and interior spaces. No major reconfiguration of classroom walls is proposed.


The $12 million cost estimate doesn’t include new insulation for the existing building or the estimated $1.3 million cost of rebuilding the parking lot and bus loop where students are dropped off and picked up.

Limited space at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland means tables have to be folded up and moved so the cafeteria can be converted for use by gym classes.

“This represents a scaled-back interpretation of the conceptual documents,” Superintendent Xavier Botana told the board at its December meeting during a first reading of the proposal. “The scaling back allows the project to retain most of the key features in the original design while maintaining the financial viability of the overall four-school project approved by Portland’s voters.”

The Lyseth building committee is recommending that the parking lot improvements be financed with bond contingency funds, district capital improvement funds or some combination.

The other schools approved for renovation under the bond are Presumpscot, Reiche and Longfellow. The board has not determined the order in which they will be renovated.

Lyseth was selected as the first to be renovated because it’s in relatively better shape than the others and the renovations are straightforward.

After a 30-day bid process, construction is expected to begin this spring. The students will not be displaced to a different school during the estimated 24 to 30 months of construction, but moved within the building.


“I think this is going to have a really positive impact,” said board Chairman Roberto Rodriquez, who has a child at Lyseth. “This is not all the bells and whistles, but we don’t have a blank check.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: