Historic Schools

Longfellow School on Stevens Avenue, Portland

Longfellow School on Stevens Avenue, Portland

THE ISSUE

In 2000 the National Trust for Historic Preservation added older neighborhood schools to its annual list of most endangered historic places. It aimed thereby to raise awareness of public policies that discourage maintenance of existing buildings, the lack of money many schools need for repairs, and a trend toward large consolidated schools in places that are not within walking distance of local residents.

While the historic character of a neighborhood school is often highly valued by the community it serves, many of these buildings are marked by outdated infrastructure and deferred basic maintenance. In Greater Portland, as in many communities across the nation, historic school buildings have been closed due to district consolidations or deterioration caused by lack of investment in their maintenance. Prolonged underfunding, and uncertainty regarding future funding for repairs and enhancements to Longfellow Elementary School, are concerns for Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood. In South Portland, local officials have started a complex multi-step process to determine the best and most cost-effective way to house the education of the area’s 725 students in Grades 6 through 8. They are debating whether to restore Mahoney Middle School or consolidate it with Memorial Middle School on another site.

OUR POSITION

Neighborhood schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last for generations, and they represent a community’s investment in its youngest citizens. Historic school buildings are usually located within walking or biking distance of the community they serve. They also provide valuable social services, community gathering places, and access to open space and recreation outside school hours. With proper maintenance and timely upgrading, these historic schools can continue to serve their communities for many years.

Greater Portland Landmarks encourages communities to act as good stewards of their historic school buildings, and to continue to use them for the purpose for which they were designed. Maintenance and modernization of these historic facilities are critically important community investments.

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