Portland officials tour schools targeted for renovations

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PORTLAND — City and school officials on Monday evening toured two of the four elementary schools at the center of a proposed $70.6 million renovation project.

The School Facilities Ad Hoc Committee, which earlier this month toured Presumpscot and Lyseth elementary schools, spent Monday night at Reiche and Longfellow elementary schools. Major renovations at each of the four schools are outlined in the 2013 School Department report “Buildings for Our Future,” as well as subsequent updates.

Mayor Ethan Strimling, who co-chairs the ad hoc committee, said the tours allow the group to learn about what is going on in the schools and see the challenges each facility is facing.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said walking through the facilities lets members of the group visualize what can happen at each building.

The tours advanced a full meeting of the ad hoc committee held Tuesday, Aug. 30 in City Hall Council Chambers at 5 p.m., when, Strimling said, members will start talking about solutions. The ad hoc committee was formed after the School Board sent the proposal forward to the City Council in late June.

Oak Point Associates, the project architect, is expected to give a school-by-school presentation of the proposed work at the Aug. 30 meeting.

The ad hoc committee includes City Councilors Justin Costa, Nick Mavodones and David Brenerman; School Board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione, who co-chairs along with Strimling, and school board members Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, Sarah Thompson and Anna Trevorrow. All attended the Reiche tour.

Christine Keegan, one of Reiche’s teacher leaders, led the tour at 166 Brackett St., showing the committee the school’s open concept. She said the hope is that updated facilities would take care of noise issues, as the building’s open concept allows noise to carry and disrupt classroom productivity.

There are also other construction projects going on at Reiche, both associated with and separate from Buildings for Our Future. A new secured entrance near the shared community area is under construction, and an elevator connecting the first and second floors is expected to be installed this fall.

Keegan said some of the educational spaces in the building were “never intended to be classrooms.”

The School Board had hoped to get the proposal onto the November ballot as a referendum. However, the City Council would have had to vote to place it on the ballot by Sept. 7, and the ad hoc committee’s work schedule carries past that deadline.

Once the ad hoc committee completes its work, the proposal will go to the City Council Finance Committee for review before returning to the Council. In order to have the bond question considered at the polls, the council is required to hold a public hearing and vote 60 days before an election.

The Fred P. Hall Elementary School at 23 Orono Road was also included in “Buildings For Our Future.” Hall has had several problems, including a fire in 2012. The school was placed on the the Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Approved Projects List, and a replacement project estimated at nearly $30 million was approved by voters in April. About $1.4 million will be borrowed, and the rest will come from the state.

The $70.6 million proposal was recommended to the School Board by its finance and operations committees this past April.

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

City and School Department officials who are members of the Portland School Facilities Ad Hoc Committee meet at Reiche Elementary School on Aug. 22 for a tour.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, left, City Councilor Justin Costa and Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana tour Reiche Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 22.

From left, Mayor Ethan Strimling, School Board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau and School Board member Sarah Thompson overlook construction being done on the Clark Street side of Reiche.

Reiche teacher leader Christine Keegan leads a tour of the school Aug. 22. Reiche is one of four elementary schools eyed for major renovations under a proposed $70.6 million bond.

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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.