LEWISTON, Maine — Hello, Longley Elementary; goodbye, Multi-Purpose Center.
The Birch Street building that for years was a school on one side and a community center on the other is now just a school.
On Monday, the School Committee was scheduled to tour the building.
On Friday, Principal Linda St. Andre showed off the larger school to the Sun Journal.
There are 360 students in prekindergarten to grade six. With the city’s enrollment growing about 100 students a year, the school had become overcrowded.
Taking over the entire building gave Longley five more rooms, four of which are classrooms, plus space for meetings or working with small groups.
“We added a pre-K, a new second grade, added a special ed classroom, and, for the first time, we have a computer lab,” said Superintendent Bill Webster.
City programs for senior citizens, recreation and others have been moved to the Lewiston Memorial Armory on Central Avenue.
One school improvement is security, which Longley lacked.
The principal’s office has been moved to the front of the building. The office has large windows to allow views of the street. That’s especially handy, St. Andre said, for arrival in the morning and dismissal in the afternoon.
People now enter the school through two sets of doors. The first is unlocked, where people are greeted by a receptionist behind a window. After explaining the reason for their visit, the secretary can unlock the second set of doors to let them in.
Last year, the building was open to the public. “The front doors were unlocked all day.”
She said this year people try to come in “to use the bathroom. There must have been people coming in here last year just to use the bathroom.”
A large room that was the senior center has been turned into two classrooms for music and art.
“I love it,” said art teacher Lynda Leonas, who was leading fourth-graders in clay projects. “The space has made a huge difference in the projects they can do.”
Eventually the rooms may become prekindergarten classrooms, St. Andre said, adding each is equipped with bathrooms for 4-year-olds.
In the hall outside is a glassed-in, triangular display case where children’s books are displayed. The art teacher hopes to add lights in the case to display student artwork.
Down the hall there’s an office for the Somali parent coordinator. Across the hall is a new special education office and nearby a new special ed classroom.
Outside portable classrooms for grades four, five and six remain. Even using the whole building, there wasn’t room to bring those grades inside, Webster said. Making the walk to the portable classrooms more secure is new fencing surrounding the yard.
Converting the Multi-Purpose Center to a school cost $200,000 and another $480,000 to convert the heating system from oil to natural gas. The changes were done with a tight budget, Webster said. “We still have some things to do.”
St. Andre called the changes “phenomenal. It’s awesome.”