Classes carry on as usual at Portland’s Lyseth Elementary School even as a nearly $16 million construction project is underway. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — While a nearly $16 million renovation and expansion project is going on at Lyseth Elementary in North Deering, the hope is for it to be business as usual inside, while major construction takes place outside.

Principal Lenore Williams said this week that despite losing the school’s main entrance, a conference room, and key square footage in the gym “we’ve been able to keep things running and there’s some normalcy in our day-to-day operations.”

Lyseth Elementary is the first school to undergo a significant upgrade under a $64 million bond approved in November 2017 that also includes Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche schools.

Construction workers lay the groundwork for a new front lobby and entrance at Lyseth Elementary in North Deering Sept. 16. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Construction at the school is expected to take between two and half and three years to complete, she said, so students and staff still have quite a bit of disruption to deal with as work continues.

Included in the Lyseth project is a new gym, a new library and upgrades to the school’s entrance and administrative space. The cafeteria will also be completely renovated.

In addition, modular classrooms will be removed, while adding space for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and gifted and talented classrooms. The goal is to also provide new English language learner, speech, art, music, and social worker spaces.

In all, the project is expected to add about 14,000 square feet of new space, according to Harriman, the Portland-based architect, engineering and planning firm that’s designing the updated school. The new school will be about 64,000 square feet.

The upgraded Lsyeth Elementary School will include a new gym and library, where significant site work is now occurring. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Because the project went over budget, planned exterior sitework will not take place, but in prior discussions the School Board said the most important elements of the project will still go forward.

The original school opened in 1958 and this week Williams said “we were due for an upgrade. We really were using every available space” for programming.

The decision to start the four-school renovation project with Lyseth Elementary was “based on a variety of relevant criteria (including) the added square footage, the number of students impacted, the cost of the project, the quality of the current building for 21st Century learning (and) the relative ease of construction,” Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said this past winter.

A floor plan for the new Lyseth Elementary School shows where significant new elements will be located, including the new gym and library. Courtesy / Harriman

This week Williams said multiple phases of the project are occurring at the same time, which is one reason the school has a new temporary entrance around the back and a number of programs have been relocated and are sharing space, including the math coach and the world languages teacher.

Over the summer, she said, a lot of interior renovation work was completed, including a new faculty room and new space for art music and speech therapy.

Williams said a lot of electrical wiring and structural reinforcement work was also done over the summer, so that while the school doesn’t look much different from the outside, yet, what’s happened inside is “really great.”

She said that students are “very interested and excited” by the project and that when the school is complete it will be “beautiful” and “the improvements to teaching and learning will be incredible.”

Right now, Williams said, “we’re operating under the philosophy that you have to give to get.”

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