PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Portland Public School system is hoping to give 5 of its elementary schools a major face-lift -- and soon.

The school system announced Tuesday it's hired the architectural and engineering firm Oak Point Associates out of Biddeford to come up with a plan to replace the Hall School, and renovate or expand the Presumpscot, Lyseth, Reiche and Longfellow elementary schools. The total cost of all this work is expected to be around $46 million. The school board is hoping to send a referendum to voters in November 2013 and if it is passed, the work would be completed 3 years later.

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk says these projects are a priority to make sure students across the city are getting the same quality of education. "The equity when you compare it to the schools that have been renovated, you can see the dissimilarities. What we want to do is bring these schools up, not just the school, but bring the learning environment for students to something that's on par, a quality of excellence for our students."

School officials say the fire at Hall School in September demonstrated how much of a premium space is at city schools, and showed how urgent the need is for better buildings. Students at Hall School had to be bussed to the former Cathedral School because there was no space for them at other Portland schools. Part of the school still isn't open to students because the damage was so significant.

The Portland Board of Public Education also has asked Oak Point to recommend a redistricting plan as part of its work, so that students are more evenly distributed across the schools. Board Chair Kate Snyder says the public will have multiple opportunities to weigh in.

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