Supporters of school bond rally at City Hall

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PORTLAND — At a rally held on Jan. 2 on the steps of City Hall, about two dozen school children, parents and city and school leaders gathered to advocate for passage of a proposed $70 million bond that would substantially renovate and update four of Portland’s elementary schools.

Those supporting the full bond amount sent to the City Council by the School Board this past summer said they were delivering “a New Year’s resolution challenging the (council) to make 2017 the year they finally stop neglecting Portland’s four crumbling elementary schools,” according to a press release issued by the group Protect our Neighborhood Schools.

The citizen-led organization wants the city to fully fund the proposed bond to repair Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche schools. An ad hoc committee that includes Mayor Ethan Strimling, three city councilors and four members of the School Board are set to take public input on how to best pay for the needed capital projects at a hearing on Jan. 19.

Although City Hall was closed Monday, City Councilor Pious Ali and Strimling’s special assistant, Jason Shedlock, were both on hand during the rally to accept the request to fully fund the bond measure.

“It’s been almost one-quarter of a century since Portland has made a major investment in its school buildings,” the press release from Protect our Neighborhood Schools said. “The last time was in 1993 when the City Council passed and voters approved a $14.8 million bond to renovate the city’s middle schools.”

The release added, “For 23 years, Portland city leaders have been talking about renovating the elementary schools. The city has had seven official task forces on elementary school facilities and hired architectural firms six different times to create plans for the renovations”

According to the Protect our Neighborhood Schools group, Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche all lack the physical space and infrastructure to meet current educational standards.

“Students are taught in hallways, custodial closets, mechanical closets and dilapidated trailers. Noise and extreme heat and cold routinely interrupt learning. The schools lack the infrastructure for modern technology and fail to meet ADA standards,” the release said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

City Councilor Pious Ali speaks in favor of a $70 million bond to renovate and update four of Portland’s elementary schools during a rally Jan. 2 at City Hall.