Portlanders next week will be able to take a tour of Lyseth and Presumpscot schools, along with the group of city councilors and school board members trying to find a fiscally responsible way to fund the long-needed renovation of four of the city’s aging elementary schools.
Next Wednesday’s tour will begin at Presumpscot at 5 pm and give members of the public a chance to assess the state of Portland’s schools in the company of the four school board members, three city councilors and Mayor Ethan Strimling, who together make up the ad hoc committee studying renovation funding.
Presumpscot, which serves communities in East Deering, has classrooms set up in mobile trailers, a gym that doubles as a cafeteria, and lacks a centralized space for special education, according to a report on school facilities by the architecture firm Oak Point Associates. Lyseth, in North Deering, has many of the same needs, according to the report. And all of the the four elementary schools, which include Longfellow and Reiche, have not seen major renovations for more than a half century.
The committee plans to schedule public tours of Longfellow and Reiche later in August and on August 30 Oak Point will present its renovation plans.
In June, the Board of Education approved a proposal to borrow $70 million on the bond market to fund fixes for the schools. But the City Council, out of concern with the tax hikes the plan would require, declined to put the question to voters on the November ballot, instead creating a committee to study the issue and look for other ways to pay for it. It is the seventh task force created to study school renovations since 1994.
The school board first hired Oak Point in 2013 for $700,000 to report on the condition of Portland’s elementary schools. After the bond proposal based on that report died in the city council’s finance committee, the firm was rehired to update the report for this bond proposal.
Craig Worth, Executive Director of Operations for Portland Public Schools, said that the firm would again be paid with taxpayer money for the August 30 presentation, although he was unsure what it would cost.