On Thursday, there will be an open house at Lewiston Middle School on Central Avenue, from 4 to 7 p.m.
There’s no art show, school play or parent-teacher conference.
This event is for taxpayers to look at the school before they go to the polls on July 10 to consider a $9.17 million referendum to renovate and expand the school.
If you’re doing the math, that’s $261.57 per Lewiston resident to be spread over years of bonding.
If you favor the project, go to the open house.
If you don’t favor the project, go.
If you don’t know anything about it, go.
According to school officials, the building is worn, dingy. The plaster walls have holes, water damage has caused paint to peel, phone and Internet lines run up and across walls. “It’s an environment that doesn’t say we value our middle school students,” Principal Shawn Chabot said. “It brings you down.”
According to students, many of whom wrote letters to the editor that will be published in this Sunday’s paper, the school is smelly, unsafe and unclean. They want a more modern facility.
The decision won’t be made by administrators and students, though.
It will be made by taxpayers, and taxpayers have an obligation to be informed about the condition of the school and exactly what they are voting on before going to the polls.
The referendum process began last year when the Lewiston School Committee approved a five-month study to revamp the school. At the time, Superintendent Bill Webster estimated the final cost would be between $6 million and $10 million, which it will be.
In February, the City Council included the middle school work in its consideration of $151 million in road and building construction, renovations and equipment purchases over the next five years.
Building a new middle school in Lewiston is not an option. New, a building could cost as much as $50 million, Webster has said, but getting state funding for such a project could take 15 or more years.
“We can’t wait that long,” he said, because the school — originally built as a high school in 1930 — is at capacity with 700 students, with projections of between 50 and 200 new students to be enrolled in the next five years.
So, it’s up to local taxpayers to decide whether to fund the renovation, which would include construction of a new cafeteria, improving energy efficiency, updating the library and relocating the school’s main office to the first floor.
That’s the official request.
The unofficial request comes from students who say the radiators banging during class are irritating, the classrooms are too warm and some of the windows don’t open, lockers are too small to cram in books and they use posters to cover peeling walls.
And, according to one student, wall-mounted flush valves in one of the girls’ bathrooms sprays water as students press the button. And since that’s gross, they choose not to flush.
That’s really gross.
Other students have also pointed out how disgusting the bathrooms are, and in making his plea for taxpayers to consider funding the project, LMS student Ben Ferrence wrote, “I think that at least a quick fix-up of our bathrooms would definitely be in order.”
If there is any question in your mind about whether these renovations are necessary, go to the open house tonight. See with your own eyes whether this work should be done.
Peek behind the posters on the walls. Look at the wires hanging overhead. Talk to administrators about the work they are proposing.
And, since students’ main complaint seems to be the state of the bathrooms, walk in and get a good whiff.
Then, make sure you vote on July 10.
This is a community decision.
Don’t abdicate your responsibility to be heard.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.