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Portland School Board weighs moving district HQ downtown

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Portland School Board weighs moving district HQ downtown

PORTLAND — School officials hope to allocate $3.6 million to buy and renovate a former Goodwill Industries building at 353 Cumberland Ave., in the city’s downtown district.

According to an Oct. 31 announcement, the School Board will consider the project at its meeting Tuesday night. In the proposed move, Portland Public Schools would relocate its central office, the West Program for students with emotional disabilities and mental health diagnoses, and the Multilingual and Multicultural Center.

“This building is ideally located, near Portland High School, the Portland Public Library, Deering Oaks, the Portland Boys and Girls Club and Portland City Hall,” Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk said in a statement.

“West students will benefit from nearby educational and community resources, and they will use the gymnasium at the former Cathedral Grammar School that we already are renting,” he continued. “The central office and Multilingual Center staff will benefit from easy access to our colleagues at City Hall and opportunities for more collaboration with service agencies.”

The central office is now in the Portland Arts and Technology High School on Allen Avenue, while the Multilingual and Multicultural Center is housed at Lyman Moore Middle School.

The West Program is in the former Sampson D. Plummer School in Falmouth on a temporary lease. It had previously been housed in – and got its name from – the 50-year-old West School on Douglass Circle, a building that was closed in the spring after years of falling into disrepair.

The three-story building owned by Goodwill Industries of Northern New England is occupies 50,000 square feet, according to the department announcement. The property has 50 parking spaces and the district is prepared to rent another 55 nearby spaces.

The Midtown Community Policing Center, which occupies part of the building, would be welcome to stay.

“During the past six months, our staff looked at more than a dozen properties to purchase or lease. Nearly all of them cost significantly more money, and none was as well suited for our purposes,” Caulk said. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to purchase this building before it goes on the market at a higher price. Delaying the purchase of space for these three programs will only add to the cost.”

The purchase price of the building would be $2.7 million, and the district expects to incur an additional $900,000 in legal, administrative and renovation costs.

School administrators are promoting the deal as one that would provide the West Program’s 40 students a permanent educational home and free up space at PATHS for the expansion of the expeditionary Casco Bay High School. Funding for the purchase and renovation is proposed to come from the current year’s capital improvement budget.