Longfellow Principal Terry Young, Reiche lead teacher Renee Bourgoine-Serio and Presumpscot Principal Angie Taylor listen as construction options are discussed Feb. 27. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — A new school construction plan — triggered by higher construction costs — means that three Portland schools won’t get planned improvements such as new gyms and cafeterias.

Voters in November 2017 approved a $64 million bond that would have seen Longfellow and Presumpscot schools get new gyms and cafeterias, repair Reiche School’s roof and community center and update classrooms and security at Lyseth Elementary

But now, 2½ years later, an additional $41 million is needed to complete the work as planned, according to projections from architecture and engineering firm Harriman.

Work is already underway at Lyseth. To keep the plans to renovate Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche schools within budget, the School Committee’s District Advisory Building Committee has asked Harriman to pare down the scope of the projects. The building committee met Feb. 27 to look at several options that do so while still giving the three remaining schools some of the updates they need.

District Advisory Building Committee member Brad Post said the scenarios now under consideration don’t do enough to meet voters’ expectations.

“We are in danger of not fulfilling our duty to the people of Portland,” Post said at the meeting.

Crystal Gamet, president of the Presumpscot Family Council, said in an interview that she is frustrated. She would have preferred all the schools got renovated at once.

“It’s frustrating that one of the schools was done first instead of all at once,” Gamet said. “It wasn’t equitable, and it would have saved money. It would have made a lot of sense and made many parents and community members have more confidence in the process.”

The building committee decided to explore a $45.5 million option that would:

  • Add classroom space for art/music and Pre-K, remove asbestos and renovate existing classrooms, construct a secure entrance and add an elevator at Longfellow;
  • Add classrooms to replace modulars and add a secure entrance at Presumpscot;
  • Build walls and renovate classrooms at Reiche.

The project at Lyseth, which in today’s construction market would cost $23 million,  has already been scaled back to $16.8 million to meet the original expected cost of $17 million.  The work, which includes a new gym, cafeteria and library, security upgrades to the school entrance and other improvements, is expected to be completed next year.

District Advisory Building Committee member, teacher and parent Jessica Marino said she was worried that “we are making a decision in a vacuum without enough input from the people in the schools.”

The committee asked Harriman architect Lisa Sawin to meet with school principals over the next month about what they would like to see done and how those priorities might be able to be rolled into the construction projects.

Terry Young, principal at Longfellow School, said he is concerned about constructing new classroom space when the existing building has so many needs, including electrical, flooring and exterior brickwork, window replacement and asbestos mitigation.

“I would price all those upgrades and see where we stand,” he said.

Renee Bourgoine-Serio, a lead teachers at Reiche, said renovating the school to include walls and doors was the top priority of the staff and community, but she also feels a secure entrance is needed.

“If we did a huge renovation project at Reiche and didn’t do a secure entrance, I think we would be remiss. That is a huge mistake,” she said.

Committee member Paul Stevens was also concerned plans may not include a secure entrance at Reiche.

“That is probably the worse situation in terms of entrances at any of the three schools,” he said.

Presumpscot Principal Angie Taylor said she is willing to take a new gym off the table “even if it is hard for our families to absorb,” but she would like to find a way to have a cafeteria next to the existing gym. The current gym doubles as a cafeteria for an hour and a half a day, making it difficult to schedule gym classes. She supports the addition of the classrooms to eliminate the modular classrooms, just off the back of the school, for English Language, special education and other instruction.

Gamet said she is on board with getting rid of the modulars, where her children, a third-grader and fifth-grader, have taken classes, but she’s not ready to give up hope for a better gym. Even if the Presumpscot project doesn’t include a gym, she would like to see improvements to the existing gym, which she said serves as a hub for not only the school, but the community.

“We have the only in-house basketball program in the state that is totally parent-run. Its been going for three, going on four decades,” she said of the program, which includes more than 60 percent of the student body.

The goal, Superintendent Xavier Botana told the Forecaster last month, is to bid the remaining three construction projects in November, an increasingly tight deadline.

“We are behind where we would like to be in nailing down a concept, probably by about a month,” Sawin said.

The District Advisory Building Committee reviews options to reduce the scope of renovations at three of the city’s elementary schools. The committee’s recommendation will be brought to the Board of Education as early as mid-March. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

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