Sale of Clifford school could pay for other Portland school renovations

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PORTLAND — After the School Department officially hands over the Nathan Clifford Elementary School building at 180 Falmouth St. to the city in January, school officials hope to begin a discussion about selling the building to help pay for other elementary school renovations and relocation of the district’s central office.

The Clifford school was abandoned in February after the Ocean Avenue Elementary School opened and its students and teachers moved to the new building. Since then, the aging building has been sitting empty, pending the formal transfer of ownership to the city.

The city is expected to put the building, near the University of Southern Maine campus, up for sale.

“The (School) Board members would just like to have a discussion with the City Council,” board Chairwoman Kate Snyder said.

Snyder said the board hopes to use the money for school-related capital expenses.

“It really is a good thing for the school system and for the city,” Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. said of the plan to create a dedicated fund for future elementary school repairs.

The city already created one fund for rebuilding and renovating schools when it sold property at Martin’s Point. The fund started in 2004 with $3 million; it currently has a balance of $341,000.

The Clifford fund could be used to help move the Central Office to a new location in a place yet to be determined, while setting aside money to pay for the estimated $46 million in renovations needed at the elementary schools.

The City Council agreed to create the fund at a meeting in November. But the account is sitting empty until the school building is sold. The same fund could also be financed by sale of the Reed School on Homestead Avenue, where the Central Kitchen is located.

“We are in desperate need for a major infusion of money to address these buildings’ needs,” Morse said.

He said he would like to see both the city and schools include funding for the elementary schools in their fiscal 2013 budgets.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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