Alexis Magee, left, Hayley Brooks and Chase Hesketh clean the windows at Longley School in Lewiston during a community beautification day in July. Magee, Brooks and Hesketh are involved with Take2 YouthBuild. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — In the months following a disastrous break-in at Longley School, students and staff have gone beyond basic clean-up to revamp the aging school and make it their own.

Since four children broke into the school, splattered gallons of paint and caused more than $100,000 in damages in June, students and staff at Longley have painted six new murals around the school. Some express positive affirmations, while another two depict “these really beautiful designs of people from the community,” said Longley School Director and Next STEP Program Administrator Philip Johnston.

“The kids have been very focused on ‘how do we pour positivity into the community?'” he said.

But they’re taking their time before repainting the expansive cafeteria walls.

Johnston said students and staff are discussing design ideas and connecting with local artists interested in contributing.

“To a certain extent, everyone paid a little bit more attention to Longley and gave it a little bit more love coming out of this,” he said. “It’s been all positive.”


Salam Ali, left, and Merdi Bamba celebrate after Team Roy beat Team Mike on Dec. 19 during the Hoops & Hugs basketball tournament at the Lewiston Armory. The “Hoops & Hugs” T-shirts they wore at the December event were made in Next STEP’s maker space. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Reflecting back on the past six months since the vandalism gives Superintendent Jake Langlais pause.  The “absolute destruction” they saw when they entered the building was “immeasurable,” he said.

But then people came together and got to work.

Longley School, once an elementary school and multipurpose center, is now home to a number of Lewiston school programs, including Adult Education, the multilingual program and, new this fall, The Store Next Door. Seventy-five middle and high school students attend the Next STEP program at Longley.

Lewiston’s adult education program is “vibrant” and a leader in apprenticeship programming, Langlais said. Next STEP has grown far beyond its start in 2019.

“Spaces that did not feel welcoming to students have become opportunities for expression, murals, dedications, and other items that grow the sense of ownership, adequacy, and pride for the students and staff,” Langlais said. “As we continue to shift the school dynamic for students by creating pathways that are informed by those closest to the learning — the vandalism was an almost symbolic process to start something positive, have something terribly disruptive, and then continue to rebuild now and moving forward in a way that is student centered.”

Students and staff have even looked to improve untouched areas of the school, including a maker’s room which was previously “dormant.”

The shirts for Lewiston’s Hoops & Hugs event in the Lewiston Armory earlier this month were made using some of the equipment in the space, which includes a 3-D printer, vinyl cutter and a heat press.

“I’d say the space has never looked better,” Johnston said.

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