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Task force to join school renovation discussion in Portland

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Task force to join school renovation discussion in Portland

PORTLAND — The School Board has established a task force to assist in the planning of elementary school improvements.

In November, the School Department hired Oak Point Associates, a Biddeford-based engineering firm, to create preliminary site plans, construction schedules and estimate costs for replacing Hall Elementary School and renovating Presumpscot, Lyseth, Reiche and Longfellow elementary schools.

In addition to developing plans for the projects, Oak Point has been asked to evaluate ways to distribute students equally throughout the city so each child in the district has an “equitable physical environment in which to learn, no matter where they live within the city,” said Peter Eglinton, chief operations officer for Portland Public Schools.

Throughout the plan development process, Oak Point will work with district staff, adminstrators and parents to assess planed improvements. They also asked for the task force to be created so that they would have a consistent source of feedback on school capacity and boundary issues.

According to Eglinton, the task force will review data on things like enrollment trends, student demographics, support needs, school locations and travel times. It will also review and provide feedback on proposals and plans for the schools and potential redistricting of students.

“The task force will act as a sounding board for analysis and options developed by Oak Point Associates,” he said.

Eglinton said that parents will have the opportunity to weigh in on Oak Point Associates' work throughout the process. Updates to the projects will be posted under the "Buildings for Our Future" section of the district's website.

On top of developing plans for renovations, the engineering firm will assess and address any short-term elementary school enrollment trends and problems by the start of the 2013-2014 school year, Eglinton said. Long-term it will develop plans to evenly balance students across the district.

“Six elementary schools have been operating at or above the planned operating capacity recommended by New England School Development Council,” Eglinton said. “Our goal for these improvements, as well as significant investments in technology across our elementary schools, is to provide each student with access to an equitable physical environment in which to learn.”

Anyone interested in joining the task force should apply by noon Friday, Jan. 25. Applicants should submit a letter with their name, address, phone number and a brief description of why they want to participate, the name of the elementary school(s) attended by their children (if relevant) and whether their children are eligible for busing.

Letters should be sent to Janet Dibiase, executive secretary in the Portland Public Schools' operations office, 196 Allen Ave., Portland, ME 04103, or via email to dibiaj@portlandschools.org.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.