LEWISTON — Marking the end of an era, the School Committee voted Monday night to close Martel Elementary School in June and turn the property over to the city.

Former Martel Elementary School student and teacher Mark Ferguson shares with the Lewiston School Committee on Monday night what it was like to attend the school. It will close in June and be turned over to the city. (Sun Journal photo by Bonnie Washuk)

The 275 students, along with those from Longley Elementary School, will attend the new Connors Elementary School, which scheduled to open in the fall next to the high school on East Avenue.

Before taking the vote, several people who taught or attended Martel spoke about how much the school and its community meant to so many.

Teacher Jacqueline Hamann shared some history of the school, located at 880 Lisbon St., and the man for whom it was named.

It was built in 1925 and named for a doctor who immigrated from Canada and was a champion for Franco Americans, Hamann said.

“On a personal note, Martel School has meant a great deal to me,” she said.

Her first day of kindergarten was at Martel in 1972.

A bell that called students into Martel Elementary School is displayed at the Lewiston School Committee meeting Monday night. The committee voted to close the school in June and turn the property over to the city. (Sun Journal photo by Bonnie Washuk)

“I will be present, 46 years later, when the doors close in June,” Hamann said fighting back tears. “I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been a small part of the Martel School community.”

Mark Ferguson, a former fifth-grade teacher at Martel, dropped numerous names of his former teachers.

When he attended the school in 1954, he said, “Martel had only one teacher per grade.” Mrs. Philbrick was the kindergarten teacher, Miss Murphy and Miss Conley were the first- and second-grade teachers.

The building was staffed with wonderful people, Ferguson said. He recalled that when there was no administrator or secretary to answer the phone, fourth-grade teacher Doris Stewart would reach for it through an opening she made in the wall.

Looking ahead to the change, Ferguson pointed out the advantages Connors will offer.

Martel Elementary School on Lisbon Street, bottom right, will close in June and students will move to the new Connors Elementary School, background center, in the fall.  (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

“The new school will provide healthier classroom settings with state-of-the-art technology,” better filtration of breathable air. “However, the smallness and intimacy will no longer be a feature enjoyed presently,” he said.

Martel has had an impact on his life, he said.

“The closing feels like one of life’s experiences by saying when one door closes, another door opens. The opening of a new school will be the new door,” he said.

Former Martel Principal Stephen Whitfield, wearing his trademark Martel tie, recalled that the school served a needy population, but unlike other schools it enjoyed a continuity of students. Many parents showed up to register announcing they went to Martel.

Teacher turnover was low, too, he said. The school often went for five or eight years “without having a new teacher.”

Some Martel staff attended the meeting to observe the vote, including librarian Susan Conklin.

Students leave Martel Elementary School in Lewiston in this file photo. The School Committee voted voted Monday night to close it and turn the building over to the city. (Sun Journal file photo)

“I love this building,” she said. “I love the small nature and neighborhood feel of the school.”

But the school is lacking amenities students need, like technology, a school gymnasium, she said. “There are pros and cons. I’m looking forward to joining the faculty and students at Longley and creating a new neighborhood.”

Several School Committee members thanked Martel faculty for their dedication and creating such a school community.

Superintendent Bill Webster said Martel “is much more than bricks and mortar.”

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Martel Elementary School at 880 Lisbon St. in Lewiston will close in June.. (Sun Journal aerial Photo by Russ Dillingham)


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