Improvements at Portland's Reiche School may cost up to $1M

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PORTLAND — City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau expects to see “significant changes” at Howard C. Reiche Community School before the start of the next school year.

And those changes could cost almost $1 million.

Thibodeau said there are “a number of concerns” around safety and facility needs at the elementary school at 166 Brackett St.

“It’s not that the facility folks haven’t done their job,” Thibodeau said. “They just haven’t had the resources to make a significant impact in the past. They’ve done a miracle job in keeping the school in as good condition as it is.”

Thibodeau, who was elected to the council last November, has been working with City Manager Jon Jennings to address facility needs. In the coming months, he said, Reiche will see roof repairs to address chronic leaks, a ramp removal, a new entrance created to separate the school from the community center, and other projects.

Thibodeau said the city is still working to finalize the cost, though the range is expected to be between $800,000 and $1 million. He said the goal is to give facilities staff the resources they need, “and not do this thing piecemeal.”

“This was something that should have been done a long time ago,” Thibodeau said.

Reiche was already slated to have an exterior ramp removed due to safety concerns. Thibodeau said even more work will be done to address additional needs, and will be completed before the start of the 2016-2017 school year. He said if weather permits, the ramp will come down during the April 18–22 school vacation.

Thibodeau said the ramp area will be replaced with a new entry that separates the school from the community center. He said this is important for parents, who have expressed concerns that anyone could walk into the school.

The ramp, which is on Clark Street, was closed a few weeks ago, and replacing it is budgeted at $300,000 in the 2017 capital improvement plan, which includes engineering costs. The cost for the remaining projects will be made up from unused CIP funds.

Thibodeau said an elevator will also be installed to allow access to the second floor of the community center, which he said was something that had been talked about for a while.

Additionally, new access to the gym will be created. Thibodeau said students currently have to “go outside the school space” to get to the gym. This new access way will keep students from having to leave the school to get to the gym.

Another concern is the school’s roof, which he said has already had two significant leaks repaired in the library area. This work will include sealing the underpinnings of the roof to prevent future leaks.

Thibodeau, who has been working with both with the Reiche Parent Teacher Organization, as well as the newly founded citizen group Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, said this is “probably the biggest project Reiche has seen in quite some time.”

“This is an extremely important first step in creating school equity,” Thibodeau said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

This ramp at the Howard C. Reiche Community School was closed earlier this month for replacement.In addition to replacing the ramp on Clark Street, other repairs are planned for Reiche, including roof repairs and creating a new access way to the gym.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.