At a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Portland Board of Public Education voted unanimously to accept a $61 million bond proposal to renovate four Portland elementary schools –Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche – and refer the proposal to the City Council's Finance Committee. The final decision on sending a bond proposal to voters rests with the City Council.
The Finance Committee was slated to hear a presentation of the bond proposal at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, but the meeting was canceled due to a winter storm. Go to http://www.portlandmaine.gov/342/Finance-Committee to get updated information on upcoming Finance Committee meetings and agendas.
The Buildings for Our Future bond proposal was endorsed Jan. 19 by the council’s School Facilities Ad Hoc Committee. The committee, made up of several members of the school board and of the City Council, including school board member Marnie Morrione and Mayor Ethan Strimling, spent more than six months conducting an extensive public review of the need for the renovations at the aging schools – which have had no major investments in many decades – before voting in favor of the bond proposal to pay for them. The committee whittled down the costs from an initial estimate of more than $70 million to $61 million.
Morrione told the board Jan. 31 that the renovations are critically needed not only because of compliance and safety issues but also to ensure the schools become “21st century learning environments for our students.”
Strimling told board members, “Your vote tonight moving this forward, and the City Council hopefully taking your lead, will transform the city of Portland.” Strimling said that Portland’s schools have “inspiring teachers” and offer a quality education, but the deteriorating physical condition of the elementary schools has caused some parents to choose other educational options. With the renovated buildings, Strimling said, “We can say to families all over the state, ‘Come here!’”
The school board’s special meeting on Jan. 31 can be viewed on the district’s YouTube page at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhpkH0ow7-E