Portland School Board Recommends Upgrades to New Elementary

PORTLAND, Maine — In June 2015, Portland School Board member Marnie Morrione said the board needed commit to rebuilding Hall Elementary School. In December, the board did just that by recommending $1.3 million in additional local funding for the state-funded project. The issue will now go to the City Council, after passing a board vote on Dec. 8. The $1.3 million would come from local funds for “add-ons” to the new school, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Per state regulations, certain school upgrades cannot be funded by the state, causing the board to instead seek local funds. However, the state has already agreed to pay for a replacement school that will cost an estimated $25 million or more. The upgrades to Hall Elementary School, which are not funded by the state, would include a larger cafeteria and gymnasium as well as additional security devices, play structures and an outside learning space.

The Board of Education is also aiming for LEED certification, according to Portland Press Herald. The planned locally funded improvements will enhance education delivery, energy efficiency and security for students and staff as well as reduce costs associated with storm-water management, according to a memorandum from a Portland Board of Public Education meeting in November.

Biddeford, Maine-based architecture, engineering and planning firm Oak Point Associates laid out the recommended upgrades as well as estimated local expenses during the November meeting. One of the first items recommended were classroom security upgrades that would allow designated staff members to initiate lockdown procedures electronically. The security enhancements would be coordinated with district emergency management policies and with first responders, according to the memorandum.

Other potential upgrades include adding a middle school-sized gymnasium that would also be used by the community as well as the elementary school; improvements to the road leading to the school that would include the installation of a new water main; sod installation on the athletic fields to allow the grass to be used for not only athletics but for recess and after school activities; adding additional play structures to create better outdoor learning spaces; and creating operable partitions for general classrooms.

Many of the upgrades are focused on making the new elementary school a place for the community and not just for the students. During the November meeting, a parent on the building committee stressed the importance of building a larger gymnasium for both community and student purposes. State Representative Richard Farnsworth agreed with the Hall Elementary School parent, adding that the school will be used for the next 50 years and it will be a true community center for the surrounding area, according to the Portland Press Herald.