LEWISTON — The Lewiston School Redistricting Committee met Tuesday evening to discuss potential plans with the public for new school recommendations to replace the aging and overburdened Martel Elementary School.
The committee outlined six possible plans to replace Martel, while alleviating overcrowding conditions at Longley and Farwell elementary schools. Along with each plan, the committee presented a critique with 10 factors involved.
Transportation, growth, taxes and diversity concerns were among the points discussed for each proposal that included some variation of building a new school, repurposing other schools and redrawing district lines to accommodate those plans.
Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster explained the state’s preference for funding projects that tackle multiple problems, not simply replacing one school at a time.
According to Webster, state financing for small schools is a thing of the past. “They much prefer a school like Geiger,” Webster said, “(and) we would have our other schools still with those needs not met.”
Of the plans submitted to the public by Webster, one version replaced Martel with a pre-kindergarten to grade six school on a new site, “keeping the district pretty much as it is and renovating Longley.”
Another plan would expand the Martel district to take enough students from adjacent districts to alleviate overcrowding in those schools by building a new Martel School in the expanded Martel district, Webster said. He said such a school would be similar to Geiger Elementary.
However, “It’s unrealistic to think that no new lines will need to be drawn,” committee member and McMahon parent Jodi Wolverton said, “because with a new school, it has to have 600 kids.”
The Longley district — currently an all-walking district — would also have to envision the possibility of pupils being bused to a new location, possibly outside the immediate downtown area, Webster said.
Martel kindergarten teacher Susan Conklin said she would be fine with a location away from blowing dust and dirt from their current location at the corner of East Avenue and Lisbon Street, not to mention the noise from the streets constantly disrupting studies.
“When you have to stop talking when there’s an 18-wheeler going by or a fire engine,” Conklin said, it affects the children.
“This is a small school; this is a community school,” School Committee member Linda Scott said, “but we have to think about the whole city. We have to think about options for everybody and I’m personally looking forward to a nice, big school.”