FALMOUTH — The Portland School Department has signed a 10-month, $75,000 lease for the former Sampson D. Plummer Elementary school, to house its West Day Treatment Program.
The West program provides education to about 40 children who have emotional disabilities and mental health diagnoses. It previously operated at the West School, and more recently at the Catholic Diocese of Maine’s former Kavanagh School, both in Portland.
“The (Plummer) building is in good shape, and it is well suited for our purposes,” Sharon Pray, the Portland Public Schools’ special services director, said in a press release. She also noted the building provides adequate quiet space for students with autistic spectrum disorders and other special needs to take sensory breaks, de-escalate and process with adults.
The Portland School Department’s lease of the Middle Road building from the owners of the OceanView retirement community comes after months of seeking new homes for Portland Adult Education and the West program. The programs were forced out of the West School at the end of last school year when the building became unsafe due to deteriorating conditions.
Adult Ed will now take over the vacated classrooms at Kavanagh, which has housed three of its classes and the West program since February.
The Plummer school has been the subject of debate and discussion the last few years, while Falmouth tried to decide what to do with the building.
In 2011, the state considered leasing the building to house its office of Child Development Services, which provides early childhood education and intervention programs for pre-school age children with special needs.
The lease would have required Falmouth to pay about $700,000 up front in renovation costs to prepare the building for CDS. The state would have paid back Falmouth over a 10-year term.
The plan was rejected because of the expense and because the Falmouth Memorial Library was favored to move into the building.
In March, the town sold the entire property, which includes the former Lunt School, to OceanView for $3.25 million.
Plans to move the library fell through in April, after its Board of Trustees decided to expand at the library’s current location on Lunt Road.
OceanView is now moving forward with construction of a 36-unit senior apartment complex called Blueberry Commons on the property. The project is expected to be complete by April 2014.
It is also building a 24-unit Alzheimer’s and dementia clinic, called Legacy Memory Care, which will be attached to the Lunt School. Lunt will be converted into medical office space and is expected to be ready for occupancy by the beginning of next year.
The West program lease will be temporary while Portland School officials develop a long-term solution this fall, said Peter Eglinton, chief operations officer for the city’s School Department.
Eglinton said a committee formed to find a home for both programs will meet at least once every two weeks to discuss suitable properties and funding options, noting that he expects to have a preliminary proposal for the Portland School Board by late September or early October.