LEWISTON — Seven months into the $9.1 million renovation at Lewiston Middle School, changes are evident.

The expansion on the front of the building is being framed. The 8,731 square feet of space will house the main office, more classrooms and a new and improved library.

The view outside Principal Shawn Chabot’s window is no longer only Central Avenue. He sees workers on a concrete floor building windows and walls.

In the lobby, the staircase that led to the second-floor main office has been demolished, replaced by a concrete floor.

The first major renovation of the school, which was built in the early 1930s as Lewiston High School, is expected to be complete in December 2014.

The project is going well, Chabot said Thursday. The general contractor, Hebert Construction of Lewiston, “has been great every step of the way,” Chabot said, showing where workers are turning the lobby area into a main office, administrators’ office, conference rooms and guidance offices.

But undergoing a major renovation while students are in school can be tricky.

Eighth-grader Cam Dionne said he’s excited his school is being improved; however, it is at times inconvenient.

His literacy class “is right on the corner of where they’re doing all the construction on the front of the building,” Dionne said. At times the construction noise makes it tough to concentrate, he said. “I try and tune it out and focus harder.”

One day this week drilling was so loud “we couldn’t hear each other,” school secretary Lisa Bernier said. “If it does get that loud, we tell the custodian. He tells them to stop.”

The noise subsides until school is out.

“The contractors have been agreeable to work with us,” Chabot said.

“We have to be sensitive to classes and teachers,” Hebert Construction owner Mike Hebert said. That means separating construction workers from students and teachers through temporary walls, doors and seals. It also means some work is done at night. “It involves a lot of swing shifts,” Hebert said.

Building the front addition, then renovating one section at a time, allows the School Department to avoid paying $150,000 to house students in portable classrooms, Chabot said.

When the front addition is complete in March, main office staff will move in; the upper floors will become “swing space” for classrooms.

As one section of the building is renovated, those classrooms will move to the swing space.

Throughout the rest of the building, “a lot is going to get done this summer,” Chabot said. Renovation will include new bathrooms for students and new public bathrooms for the auditorium used for community plays and functions. Instead of only two stalls for the male and female auditorium bathrooms, there will be 12 to 15 stalls.

Other improvements include an expanded cafeteria, an efficient heating system, new walls and lockers and a ventilation system that will provide a healthier air flow.

“It’s huge to have fresh air,” Chabot said. “This building doesn’t have ventilation. All that air is stuck in the building unless you open a window.”

Dripping water from the ceiling after storms, ugly blotches of peeling paint on walls, lockers so tiny they’re useless, webs of exposed wires and pipes will be things of the past, Chabot said.

“We’re going to have a nice building students will feel proud of,” he said.

The cost of the project is being picked up by local taxpayers, who approved the work during a 2012 referendum. Building a new school would have cost between $40 million and $50 million, Chabot said.

Eighth-grader Dionne said he’s excited to see the school when it’s finished, even though he’ll be at Lewiston High School next year. “I’m looking forward to having a nice new school for Lewiston,” he said.

His grandmother, Michelle Vachon, attended the school when it was a high school, he said.

The school has a lot of meaning for the community, Chabot said.

“The building is historic, an important landmark,” he said. “It’s always looked beautiful on the outside. Now it will look beautiful on the inside.”

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