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Board Sends Locally Funded Hall School Options to Council

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Board Sends Locally Funded Hall School Options to Council
Posted on 12/09/2015
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At its Dec. 8 meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education voted to recommend to the City Council nine additional locally funded options for the planned new state-funded replacement of Fred P. Hall Elementary School.

The Portland Public Schools is continuing to work through the state’s 21-step process for the replacement of Hall. The state has agreed to pay for a replacement school, estimated to cost at least $25 million. However, Laurie Davis, the District 3 school board member who is on the Hall Building Committee, told the board that the state will pay for only a certain level of building and amenities, which is why the building committee has proposed nine upgrades that would have to be funded locally.

On Dec. 8, the school board ended up voting to send an advisory recommendation to the City Council supporting all nine. The upgrades would improve education and energy efficiency, enhance security, reduce the cost of stormwater management and enhance the use of Hall School by the community. They range from having the project be LEED certified as a “green” building to expanding the size of the school’s gymnasium. The estimated total cost of all the upgrades would be $1.3 million.

At the school board meeting, District 3 City Councilor Ed Suslovic, chair of the Hall Building Committee, told the board that the committee went through a “very careful and deliberative process” and looked at what was essential in coming up with the proposed upgrades.

State Rep. Richard Farnsworth, who represents Portland and also is on the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, attended the meeting and told the board he supports the upgrades because he wants the new school to function as a community center. The school should last for 50 years or more, he said. “I’m very interested in making sure as we go forward that the new Hall Elementary School becomes a community school that serves the community in a variety of ways, and not just for educating kids,” Farnsworth said.

At the meeting, Suslovic reminded the public that a straw poll on the concept plan for the new school is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at the school at 23 Orono Road. Community members are encouraged to attend. “We need a good turnout,” Suslovic said.

Suslovic also outlined a tentative schedule for the project over the next few months. On Jan. 4, the City council is expected to schedule a public hearing on a bond order for the new school and have a first reading of that bond order on Jan. 20, Suslovic said. Feb. 1 would be the date for a public hearing, deliberation and vote on the bond order, he said.

Suslovic said the hope is to have a referendum on the project go before Portland voters early in the spring of 2016, perhaps on April 5, but he cautioned that date has not yet been confirmed.

More information on the Hall School project can be found by going to the district’s website, www.portlandschools.org, and clicking on the “Hall Building Committee” quick link on the homepage.