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Current, past Portland schools being scrutinized

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Current, past Portland schools being scrutinized

PORTLAND — The School Board was scheduled to discuss recently presented plans for improving five city school buildings at a workshop Tuesday night.

Last week, consultant Oak Point Associates unveiled its conceptual plans for replacing Hall Elementary School and renovating Presumpscot, Lyseth, Reiche and Longfellow elementary schools.

The building improvements are part of the School Department's Buildings for Our Future initiative, which aims to plan the next generation of Portland’s elementary school buildings. Oak Point obtained input from school staff and the public at neighborhood meetings and design forums held for each of the five schools.

Now the board is looking at four options for steering the development of those plans, based on the level of funding available, according to a memo from Chief Operations Officer Peter Eglinton.

Option 1 focuses on building features that will improve academic performance and enhance student safety. Examples include ending the use of trailers as classrooms, creating additional space for pre-kindergarten, and updating building security systems.

Option 2 emphasizes building features such as outdoor play and learning spaces – features that improve academic performance while also making the buildings more environmentally sustainable.

Option 3 combines the elements of options 1 and 2, while the fourth option represents a worst-case scenario, calling for minimal changes to the buildings. Under this option, Reiche and one other school would be renovated only to address basic safety and accessibility needs and minor deficiencies.

Option 4, a scaled-down version of Option 1, would come closest to meeting the initiative's goal of $46 million, according to the memo. But the district is strongly recommending Option 1.

Based on discussion at the workshop, the board will provide guidance to district staff in preparing a recommendation to the City Council on the building initiative and funding needs.

Meanwhile, the city has launched a search to find developers who will propose new uses for the vacant Nathan Clifford School at 180 Falmouth St.

As a first step, the city is issuing a formal Request for Qualifications that asks for basic information about developers and their plans, according to a press release. Responses must be submitted by July 19.

Based on criteria established by a task force of residents, officials and community leaders, the city will select three potential developers in August. A finalist will be recommended to the City Council for approval in the fall.

Built in 1909, the school was named after Nathan Clifford, a former Portland lawyer who served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice for more than 20 years. The city shuttered the 44,000-square-foot school in 2011 after construction of the Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

Last fall, the City Council appointed the task force to suggest new uses and a process for selecting a new owner for the school building and grounds. The council adopted the task force recommendations in December.

"This is an exciting step for the neighborhood," said Councilor Ed Suslovic, who served on the task force. "We are all eager to see the creative reuse opportunities possible for the Nathan Clifford School, and move towards putting this property back into productive use."

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.