LRTC students have built a new portable classroom for Longley Elementary School.

LEWISTON- Three days after moving in, teacher Linda Adkins still marvels at her new portable classroom.

Its walk-in closet with built-in shelves give her storage space. The two white ceiling fans and large, blue-curtained windows bring in air. The room’s massive open space lets her kids spread out.

And then there’s the fact that it was built by high-schoolers.

Said the sixth-grade teacher, “That’s my favorite thing.”

For the past eight months, 16 juniors and 14 seniors from Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s carpentry class spent their mornings constructing the 28- by 64-foot building on a paved area behind Longley Elementary School.

The plan: Give the high school students hands-on experience at a real work site while creating a new classroom for two teachers who sorely needed it.

It was the sixth portable built by LRTC students over the past 15 years. It was one of several projects- including a house on Birch Street- that this year’s students have worked on since September.

With supervision from carpentry instructor James Conners, the high-schoolers did everything from framing the Longley building to shingling its roof – all while Adkins and her sixth-graders watched from their cramped, dark portable a few yards away.

The kids applauded each big step.

“They cheered for the wall,” Adkins said during a thank-you barbecue for the LRTC students Thursday.

A Longley teacher for 15 years, Adkins has spent 10 years teaching in a portable classroom. The one she had last year was so old and in such disrepair that the school system scrapped it and asked LRTC to build a new one.

As Adkins and her students waited for construction to end, they used a narrow, trailer-like building a few yards from the construction site. The classroom was dim and confining, barely able to accommodate 27 desks.

In contrast, the new building is wide, bright and airy, with one classroom for fifth- and sixth-grade special education students and a larger classroom for Adkins’ sixth-graders. It is more than twice the size of the old building.

In the sixth-grade room, which Adkins helped design, two ceiling fans circulate the air, small shelves display classroom books and a walk-in closet hides plastic totes full of materials.

While most older classrooms have only a handful of wall outlets, the LRTC students built Longley’s portable with more than two dozen outlets to accommodate the computers that line two walls. Desks are clustered in small groups, leaving space for students to spread their projects across the floor.

“The teacher lets us do more stuff in here,” said 12-year-old Devaney Ballard.

Emerald Woodin, 12, credited the LRTC teenagers for the new “more comfortable” classroom.

“I think they must’ve had to go through a lot to do this,” she said.

The portable cost between $38,000 and $40,000 to build. Instructor James Conners believes it would have cost the school system $50,000 to have it built by a professional contractor.

LRTC students say they were happy to do it.

Said junior Nathan Landry, “We know it’ll be used for something good.”

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