Lewiston: School board to discuss suicide, new arts center

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Lewiston High School drawing and painting teacher Nathaniel Meyer, center, works with freshman Shakira Girardin in his cramped classroom in the basement of the school Friday. The Lewiston School Committee on Monday will consider authorizing an architect’s study of a possible new performing arts center. 

LEWISTON — A revised suicide protocol policy, a decision pm an architect’s study of an arts building at the high school, and the dress code will be discussed by the Lewiston School Committee on Monday.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Dingley Building.

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After a Lewiston Middle School student took her life in May, Lewiston school administrators, school counselors and special education teachers met with local providers, including St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Tri-County Mental Health, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

“After the unfortunate event we did some brainstorming and went over what had transpired, our response,” Webster said. “We made some tweaks to our approach in the future. We will share that with the board,” he said Friday.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Maine youth ages 15-24, according to a report to committee members. Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey data say that 1 in 11 Maine high school students reported attempting suicide in the past year, and that a suicide attempt is a significant call for help.

While schools aren’t qualified or expected to provide in-depth treatment, schools are responsible for notifying parents and making appropriate referrals, and that advance planning to response is critical, the report says.

The School Committee will also consider whether to take money approved to add parking to the high school grounds and use it to pay for an architect’s study of a new visual and performing arts center.

The School Committee and the Facilities Committee supported creating a Visual and Performing Arts Committee, which met Aug. 31. That committee is recommending using the $240,000 to expand parking to develop a concept plan for a performing arts center at the high school.

As Webster envisions an arts center, he said it could be a new building with classrooms and an auditorium larger than The Green Ladle culinary school. A study would answer many questions, including whether there’s room on campus for a center, Webster said.

An arts building is needed, Webster said. Students study chorus, band, choir, music, ceramics, photography, art classes and more in the high school basement. The classrooms are cramped and lack storage areas. Boxes and other equipment are everywhere.

“If you take a walk through there, you’d see it has very poor, if any, ventilation. There are no outside windows,” Webster said. “There is no place for dance.”

The superintendent described it as “one of the few remaining, glaring weaknesses” for Lewiston school buildings.

On student dress code, a community member said it needs to be changed.

The dress code says student dress must include a top, a bottom, footwear and that genitalia, breasts and buttocks are to be covered at all times. It was amended after student Amanda Alberda, who now attends Boston College, led the effort for changes after she and other female students were told to stand in the lunchroom and measure the length of their shorts with their fingertips.

That wasn’t reasonable, Alberda said, because the policy targeted girls and the acceptable length of shorts varied by body types.

Working with students and administrators, Alberda came up with a dress code more gender neutral which was enforceable.

While the School Committee will listen to concerns, Webster said he is not recommending any changes.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Lewiston High School students fill the hall by the main entrance as they switch classes Friday afternoon. The School Committee will meet Monday to discuss authorizing an architect’s study for a performing arts center at the school. 

Lewiston High School students fill the hall by the main entrance as they switch classes Friday afternoon. The School Committee will meet Monday to discuss authorizing an architect’s study for a performing arts center at the school. 

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