Summer repairs underway, meal program expands at Portland schools

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PORTLAND — School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean the work stops.

In addition to infrastructure improvements, the School Department also plans to serve more meals to students this summer by ramping up an annual distribution program.

The department has several facilities projects planned, either as part of the annual capital improvement plan or the municipal budget, and ranging from flooring to large-scale projects such as installing an elevator and a boiler.

At a June 30 operations committee meeting, Craig Worth, the department’s deputy chief operations officer, said some of the work has started already, including carpeting at Portland Arts and Technology High School.

Some larger items are ongoing, such as masonry repairs at Lincoln Middle School. The department allotted $250,000 for the work in the CIP for 2017, although a bid for $186,000 from Tito Masonry of Portland was approved March 10.

A substantial amount of work will also be done at Peaks Island Elementary School, including a new boiler, repairs to the masonry, and waterproofing.

The five-year CIP, with $2.2 million allotted for 2017, had originally called for replacing windows at Deering High School. The project has been postponed, but window samples have been procured. Worth said putting off the work was a result of transferring money to complete projects at the Howard C. Reiche Community School.

He said window replacement was originally a two-year project, and it will be completed next year, with the cost remaining around the same at $500,000.

The department is also ramping up its summer meals program. Food Service Director Jane McLucas said the program served about 7,000 meals last summer, and this year administrators are aiming for 10,000.

The program, which is operated in conjunction with Opportunity Alliance and is federally funded, feeds students ages 18 and younger at stations around the city. McLucas said there are 11 sites being run by the School Department, most of which will run through the middle of August.

“Some have breakfast, some have breakfast and lunch,” McLucas said at the committee meeting.

Participating sites include the Front Street Community Center, North Deering Gardens, Ocean Avenue Elementary School, Riverton Housing, Lyman Moore Middle School and others. A full list is available on the department’s website. For more information on sites and times, call 2-1-1.

One change from past years, McLucas said, is that all the meals will be cold, in an attempt to save money. He said hot meals have to be served within a four-hour window, or they would have to be thrown away, while unused cold meals can be kept for the next day. The food is prepared at Deering High School and transported to the other stations. All meals must be eaten on site.

“It was hard last year (to have to throw food out),” Worth said.

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

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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.