LEWISTON — Before deciding whether to spend $9.1 million to improve and expand the Lewiston Middle School during a July 10 referendum, residents are invited to inspect the school for themselves.
An open house will be held at the Lewiston Middle School, 75 Central Ave., from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21.
From the outside, the school looks beautiful. It's a classic-styled, red brick 1930 building that originally was Lewiston High School. Inside, things aren't so pretty.
Corridors, stairwells and classrooms are worn and dingy. Running up and across walls are webs of wires for things that came after 1930 — computers and phone systems.
Holes in plaster walls are common, as is peeling paint from water damage. Plaster has fallen from ceilings in several spots. “It's an environment that doesn't say we value our middle students,” Principal Shawn Chabot said. “It brings you down.”
In Susan Weber's eighth grade literacy room, she showed walls and ceilings where the plaster has been repaired. “I have come into my room and there's been a flood of water from the windows during driving rainstorms.”
Lockers about 6 inches wide don't allow much room for jackets and books. The bathrooms are tired. Despite being cleaned, some smell of urine. "The bathrooms have never been updated. They don't look very good,” Chabot said standing in a boy's bathroom.
The Lewiston School Department assumed eventually a new middle school building would be built, “so trying to be good stewards we didn't want to spend money on a building that wouldn't be used,” Chabot said. Since no replacement building is in sight, “we need to reinvest.”
The $9.1 million would repair damaged walls and ceilings, give the school an overall fresh look, build a suspended ceiling allowing pipes and wiring to be hidden. Halls would get acoustic tiles which would lower the noise from hundreds of students.
“Right now it sounds like the kids are yelling” Chabot said over the noise as students changed classes. The students weren't yelling, he said. Tall ceilings create echoes that amplify noise.
This year, Lewiston Middle School has 700 students. “We're maxed,” Chabot said, showing a full cafeteria. If the school had 100 percent attendance there would be no room to sit students, despite three lunch periods. “Next year we're getting 50 more students,” Chabot said
The construction work would give the school 10 more classrooms, new bathrooms and a larger cafeteria. The front offices would be moved downstairs, and a larger library would be moved to the center of the building. The building would get more efficient heating and ventilation systems.
“A lot of the building's not sprinkled, they're cement walls,” Chabot said. “None of the classes have ventilation, there's no fresh air. There's 700 kids and 100 adults in here. It's not a good healthy learning environment. It gets warm and stuffy in an old brick building.”
The renovation would also move the main office from the second floor to the first so that when people enter the building, the office is right there. Now when people enter they face an empty lobby and a small sign that instructs them to go upstairs to the main office.
“It's not welcoming,” Chabot said. “We want the main office to be out front. That would make it more of a secure facility.”
If citizens approve the $9.1 million renovation and expansion, the school department would get formal design and bids. Construction would not begin until the summer of 2013.
The bond would be paid for by local property taxpayers. City officials estimated it would cost about $25 a year on a Lewiston home valued at $100,000. That cost would go down, City Administrator Ed Barrett said, as the loan matured and if Lewiston received more from the state for education.