It’s time to replace ‘lovely, little’ Pettingill School

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A new school will better accommodate needs of students and staff.

As you may or may not know, Pettingill School in Lewiston is scheduled to be rebuilt, and the process for designing and allocating funds for this much-needed project is underway. As a father, and citizen of Lewiston, I support this new facility.

New and modern schools cost big money, and are therefore part of a complicated and creative public conversation. We are all encouraged to participate in this conversation. I offer my opinions here, and encourage others to do the same.

Pettingill is a lovely, little old school, but now obsolete in many ways. The layout and design has the old institutional feeling. The rooms, like cells of a prison, reflect old, outdated methods of teaching. The lighting and traffic flow of the interior and exterior are outdated as well, and fail to fully accommodate the current needs of students and staff. The lack of green space is downright depressing.

The new proposed space on upper College Street, designed by the experienced Harriman Associates, addresses many of these “problems,” and can still be pushed farther, as time and resources allow. The main problem, or critical need to correct as I see it, is the effect these current conditions have on the students and staff.

Pettingill is bland, so bland that any color or light-hearted effort or character stands out in stark contrast to the setting. Color and contrast are limited as well, when looking at the makeup of the student body. Modern information tells us students benefit from diversity, and common sense tells us this is an undeniable truth.

The new Pettingill’s proposed site will correct these imbalances by doubling capacity, while bringing cultural and socioeconomic diversity. New challenges will result from this action, and the fallout will be new understandings, new connections within our community’s diversity, new unseen opportunities, and I’m sure, new victories to celebrate.

Certainly the busing and exterior traffic flow will be corrected and updated for current needs, and will be designed with modern safety concepts in mind. Internal security is a new, and important, priority. Pettingill was not designed with this current need and reality in mind, and is poorly equipped to adjust to adequately accommodate the security requirements that will most likely become mandates.

Lastly, I propose the new location presents a unique, and perhaps overlooked opportunity. The new site – along with its many other good features – is located diagonally across the road from a retirement community. There is growing data and studies showing the compatibility and learning opportunities available for students supplied with ready access to our elders. The curriculum opportunities in this new area are rich. The cross-generational, and cross-cultural, connections and possibilities are endless.

I must also add that my son has proposed incorporating the existing miniature golf course into the site plan, with the idea being it would be a free resource to Lewiston’s grade-schoolers, as well as a potential resource stream for funding to compliment existing fund raisers and activities.

The opportunity for Lewiston to be a leader is ripe with this Pettingill proposal. Pettingill has earned a priority status for the reasons listed, as well as many more of which I am unaware.

This is the time for input and review; to think twice, and build once. I encourage citizens to join the committees, and the conversation.

Jeffrey Jacques, of Lewiston, is the father of a second-grade student at Pettingill School, a graduate of the L/A Civic Leadership Institute, and a creativity coach.

A municipal referendum on local funding to construct the new $21.9 million school is scheduled for Feb. 27.

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