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Maine elementary deemed unsafe, is shut down immediately

Feb. 8, 2024
Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris was built in the late 1800s and has numerous building deficiencies.

An elementary school in Maine has been deemed uninhabitable and has been shut down immediately because of multiple safety failures.

The Lewiston Sun Journal reports that Maine School Administrative District 17’s school board has voted to close Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris and institute a remote learning plan for the short term. Following winter break (Feb. 19-23), Agnes Gray students would be moved to other campuses.

At a board meeting this week, representatives of LaVallee Brensinger Architects presented findings from their inspection of the two-story building. They said flatly that the building is not safe to be occupied by students or staff.

The school was built in the late 1800s and lacks adequate fire protection and functional emergency exits. It also has outdated and poorly functioning plumbing and electrical systems; exterior degradation, including the roof that sheds decayed shingles during poor weather; exterior and interior stairwells that are not up to code; and a boiler that is years beyond its serviceable life.

The school board initiated the process to replace Agnes Gray seven years ago, and the Maine Department of Education added the school to its priority list for replacement eligibility in 2022.

With the mindset that a new school would eventually be built in West Paris, budgeting for maintenance and improvements has not been a priority. As necessary repairs were deferred, new and sometimes more critical failures began to add up.

Superintendent Heather Manchester says that the details of the school inspection made it obvious that putting off repairs at Agnes Gray has been endangering children. 

Architcts have estimated the cost to remedy immediate problems would be about $657,000 and would take at least several months.

To tackle all the school’s needs, they said it would require spending $4.5 million over five or more years.

The Maine Department of Education’s list of school construction projects has Agnes Gray school targeted for replacement in 2030, give or take a year.

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