PORTLAND, Maine — Leea Moody, 10, said she expects her 5th-grade year at Presumpscot Elementary School to be “brighter.”
The school was one of five in Portland Public Schools to be renovated as part of an ambitious summer of upgrade work. Crews at Presumpscot, Portland High School, Harrison Lyseth Elementary School, Peaks Island Elementary School and Deering High School are tying up nearly $2 million in improvements at the facilities, aimed primarily at increasing the buildings’ energy efficiency.
But, as Moody said, the ambiance for learning will also be improved. At the Presumpscot school, all new windows, along with shades and lighting fixtures, were installed to the tune of $275,000.
“You should have seen what they had for windows before these,” said Nate Travers, of Portland Glass, who was working at the scene with David Cornely Friday. “All rotted wood with Plexiglass. You couldn’t see through them.”
Moody was at the school’s playground with friends Friday while the workers put up aluminum flashing along the top of the new windows facing Presumpscot Street.
“It was all boarded in, and there wasn’t much light,” she said. “There wasn’t even much light in the gym.”
The slate of school renovation projects was funded by bond money secured by the city for energy improvements. An announcement by the school department claimed the improvements are expected to “pay for themselves over time by lowering energy costs.”
At Lyseth Elementary School, about $810,000 was put toward replacing windows and the roof, relocating the teachers’ lounge, bathroom renovations and lighting upgrades.
“Portland is growing,” said Larry Neault, whose son will be a 2nd grader at Lyseth when classes begin on Sept. 6. “I know the school budget has been difficult, but it’s important that the schools are safe.”
Joe Dean, who was applying caulking around the new windows at Lyseth Friday alongside his Cumberland County Glass coworker John Ward, said the “old windows were disgusting.”
“According to the teachers, wind and dirt would just blow right into the classrooms,” said Ward.
Aaron Shields is managing the repair projects on behalf of the city’s Department of Public Buildings. He told the Bangor Daily News Friday the volume of work planned going into the summer was ambitious, and hinged in part on work crews’ ability to get all the materials they needed to finish their projects.
“We had to pull in some special favors to get our materials on time,” he joked. “We were confident we would have it done in time for fall classes as long as materials suppliers held up their end of the bargain.”
He said that while some of the jobs may still be finishing up when students are scheduled to return for school, the work will not impact the start of classes.
Shields said that, in addition to conserving energy, the upgrades will create a better environment for learning by controlling classroom temperatures and providing natural light. He added that work crews are “fully prepared” for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, which is due to hit Maine Sunday night.
“Not only will [the upgrades] be noticeable from the outside, but more so from the insides of the buildings,” he said.
In addition to the work being done at Lyseth and Presumpscot, $675,000 was allocated for the courtyard renovations at Portland High School, $220,000 was set aside for roof and window replacements at Peaks Island Elementary School and $50,000 was put toward making Deering High School more accessible for people with disabilities.
Classes will begin in Portland Public Schools on Sept. 6 for students in 1st through 12th grade. Kindergartners will start school Sept. 8.