Summer school shuffle: Brunswick readies old, new buildings

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BRUNSWICK — Summer is normally a quiet period for schools and their staff.

But not this year.

For weeks, construction workers, teachers, School Department staff, and volunteers have been working hard to move furniture and teaching supplies from schools that are closing to ones that are staying open, or opening for the first time.

The shuffle was already quite an undertaking before the School Board decided to close Jordan Acres Elementary School. Now the move includes four different schools.

Paul Caron, director of facilities for the School Department, estimated that 90 to 95 percent of all of the elementary school staff, furniture, and teaching supplies will be moved over the summer.

The moving process looks slightly different at each school. Boxes full of books and teaching materials destined for Harriet Beecher Stowe and Coffin Elementary school line hallways at Longfellow School, which just ended its final year as a public school.

Outside the school, Cumberland County Jail inmates carried those boxes to a truck, which will take them to either Coffin or Stowe. Caron arranged for the inmates to help with the move after the budget for summer help was cut.

At Coffin the scene is similar, although the school is staying open. Because the school is switching from kindergarten to grade five to K-1 only, many teachers and their supplies are moving to Stowe. Arriving at the school are truckloads of furniture from kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at the now-closed Longfellow and Jordan Acres schools.

At Jordan Acres, the big move is also a big shutdown. There is no money in the school budget for maintenance of that school, so Caron is draining the building’s heating system, pipes, and shutting off its electricity. The only system that will stay on is the fire alarm.

Meanwhile, workers are putting the finishing touches on Stowe. All the major construction work is done and only details remain, like filling in the cracks between floor tiles, striping the gym floor, and making sure all the equipment works, a process known as commissioning.

When the School Department officially takes possession of the school on July 22, teachers will start moving into their classrooms. Caron has assigned each teacher a high school student aide, who will accumulate community service hours by helping to unpack boxes.

When they arrive, teachers and staff will be greeted by a building that is starkly different than the town’s other elementary schools.

Instead of the low ceilings and narrow hallways of Longfellow, and Coffin’s long corridors and sprawling wings, Stowe is a compact, two-story building with high ceilings and large windows.

The school has several environmentally friendly features:

• Reflectors outside the windows help throw natural light further inside each classroom, to reduce the need for electric lights.

• The roof is painted white, which reflects light and should cut cooling costs on hot days.

• Three solar panels on the roof will heat the building’s hot water.

• In the boiler room, a geothermal heating system circulates water deep underground for hot water.

There are also many kid-friendly aspects of the new school, from the palm tree-shaped patterns in the linoleum to the green and purple paint in the staircases. Funky light fixtures reminiscent of Starbucks hang in the library, and bright color swatches adorn the walls between the bookshelves. Even the tread on the stairs is fun, running in squiggly lines instead of the usual horizontal.

Although Stowe is the most modern school in town, it retains aspects of the old high school: large, engraved stone plaques, lifted from the high school before it was demolished, grace the walls of the entryway.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

What will eventually be the cafeteria of Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School in Brunswick.

A stack of boxes containing books and classroom materials fills a hallway at Longfellow Elementary School. Movers are transporting the boxes to Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary Schools.

Inmates from the Cumberland County Jail log community service hours by moving boxes from Longfellow Elementary to Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary Schools.

Sidebar Elements


Ron Goddard of Reliable Pro Painting puts the finishing touches on a window frame at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School. The tinted windows separate the administrators’ offices from the large, open entryway.

Birds remain absent from special school chimney

BRUNSWICK — Although Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School has a brand new, faux chimney built just for them, chimney swifts so far have snubbed their beaks at the school’s fake flue.

The Merrymeeting chapter of the Maine Audubon Society raised $20,000 to add a non-working chimney to the new school. Architects even made sure the chimney was one of the last parts of the old high school to come down in 2009 and the first to go up at the new elementary school.

But the birds, which used to flock to the high school chimney, haven’t arrived.

“The bottom line with our chimney is, they haven’t liked it very much yet,” said Ted Allen, president of the Audubon chapter. “I think the main reason is there’s nothing like an old, good smoked-brick chimney.”

When the old high school was first slated to be torn down, Allen and other bird-lovers were concerned about the loss of that building’s chimney, one of only a handful of swift-roosting chimneys in the state. Roosting chimneys are used by the swifts on their journey back from Ecuador in the spring; they house the unpaired birds throughout the summer.

So the group started raising money, and was awarded a $7,500 grant by the TogetherGreen program, a partnership between the National Audubon Society and Toyota.

The chimney went up before the 2010 migration season, but the birds haven’t moved in. Allen said he watched the new chimney during the month of May last year and this year, and saw the swifts circling where the old chimney used to be.

He still thinks it’s only a matter of time before they return.

“Provided there isn’t something that scares them away … they’ll generally come back to (a place they’ve used before).”

When they do, Allen hopes to install a web camera so people can watch them roost.

— Emily Guerin

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