Portand schools sign short-term leases to house Adult Ed, West programs

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PORTLAND — After months of seeking new homes for Portland Adult Education and the West treatment program, the School Department has signed a short-term lease for a former school building in Falmouth.

The West program will lease the former Sampson D. Plummer Elementary School on Lunt Road in Falmouth for $75,000 for 10 months, and move out of classrooms in Catholic Diocese’s former Kavanagh School on Locust Street.

Adult Ed will take over the vacated classrooms at Kavanagh, which has housed three of its classes and the West program since February.

A three-year agreement signed in July for the Kavanagh school will remain unchanged, Chief Operations Officer Peter Eglinton said. The agreement required $100,000 up front and $80,000 for the first year, to be paid in 11 monthly payments. The Diocese continues to use the facility on Sundays.

The cost of the leases will be covered by the existing school operations budget.

All of Adult Ed’s programs will be housed at Kavanagh, except for the job skills program, which will remain at Riverton Elementary.

Kavanagh has 14 classrooms. Adult Ed has 1,100 students, 200 volunteers and 45 teachers each trimester.

Anya Hanson, academic adviser and board member for the  friends of Portland Adult Education, said having one central location with parking for the program was a paramount consideration.

“We are elated,” Hanson said Monday. “Our students wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters to get one site. The happiest thing is knowing the students achieved their goal and got what their dream was.”

While the School Board authorized the superintendent to move ahead with the plans at their Aug. 20 meeting, the decision was delayed twice after both programs were forced to move out of their nearly three-decade home at the dilapidated West School.

And although the immediate search for a short-term solution has been going on for only a few months, Adult Ed has been searching for a new location since moving into what was supposed to be a temporary home at the West School 27 years ago.

Before the latest lease was signed, the district considered housing the programs in several locations, which would have complicated accessibility and how classes were delivered. It also would have been more costly, because the district would have had to hire custodial and office support staff and make other arrangements at each location, according to a district press release.

Eglinton said moving Adult Ed into the Kavanagh School was the original plan for the program, but it was complicated by the need to find space for the West program.

The Plummer school, which will serve all of West’s 40 students, is owned by the OceanView retirement community, which bought the property from the town of Falmouth in March. 

Eglinton said the district received suggestions from the community and considered more than a dozen properties. And while many remain options for a long-term lease or purchase, none met the immediate requirements for the upcoming school year, he said.

Some looked promising, but required costly renovations and did not meet parking and transportation requirements, Eglinton said.

Long-term solutions for both programs remain unclear, although the department has formed a committee to develop a plan for permanent facilities.

Eglinton said he met with Adult Ed Director Rob Wood last week to discuss agenda planning, purpose and membership of the committee.

The committee will meet at least once every two weeks to discuss suitable properties and funding options, Eglinton said, noting that he expects to have a preliminary proposal for the board by late September or early October.

Adult Ed classes begin Sept. 16.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff