Plan Puts More Students In 21st Century Learning Spaces-Includes 10 New Or Like-New Schools

From The Providence Public School District & The Rhode Island Department Of Education:

Today the Providence Public School District (PPSD) and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) announced the next phase of an historic plan to rebuild the capital city’s schools. Many Providence schools were built over 100 years ago, and roughly half were built before World War II and suffer from wide-ranging deficiencies. With investments already underway in several schools, this next phase will result in at least 10 new or like-new school buildings across the District, dramatically increasing the number of students and educators in modern, welcoming facilities.

Based on years of community, student, and staff engagement on the condition of the city’s public school buildings and resounding calls for major improvements, the next phase of PPSD’s facilities plan will prioritize a “newer and fewer” approach that has helped maximize school construction dollars and build 21st century learning facilities in communities across Rhode Island. This includes school projects recently completed in Newport, North Providence, and Smithfield, and projects in the pipeline in Central Falls, Coventry, Johnston, Middletown, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket. The “newer and fewer” framework is encouraged and incentivized by state law (RIGL 16-7-40(h)) which provides additional state aid for consolidation projects.

This approach helps put an end to expensive and inefficient “Band Aid” fixes by replacing old, crumbling buildings with fewer new ones. Shrinking the district’s footprint also addresses the national and local trend of declining school enrollment, with PPSD serving 3,350 fewer students than it did five years ago. Lastly, the “newer and fewer” approach allows for a foundational shift to more schools that provide Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade (PreK-8) services, in response to community feedback and research on the educational benefits of K-8 schools.

New and Like-New Facilities and Plan Highlights:

  • The new Narducci PreK-8 Learning Center (former Windmill Street School), set to open in spring of 2023 as a district-wide swing space, allowing students to learn in a modern facility while their own school is being renovated.
  • A $20 million complete renovation of Hope High School’s auditorium, set to open in spring 2023 to serve Hope students, arts programs, and the wider community.
  • A renovated, like-new William D’ABate Elementary School set to open in fall of 2023.
  • A new PreK-8 Spaziano Campus that will provide a 21st Century learning space opening in fall of 2023 for grades PreK-5, and expanded in 2025 for grades 6-8.
  • Renovation of Classical High School classrooms, set to be completed in spring 2024.
  • A renovated, like-new Pleasant View Elementary School set to open in spring 2024.
  • A new PreK-8 Mary Fogarty School campus, set to open in fall 2025.
  • A new PreK-8 Harry Kizirian School campus, set to open in fall 2025.
  • A new PreK-8 Gilbert Stuart School campus, set to open at a date to be determined.
  • All Providence elementary schools are scheduled to have a 21st century media center in place by September 1, 2023.
  • A $50 million capital revolving fund in partnership with the City of Providence to address basic facility needs district-wide such as boilers, gym floors, and building improvements.

“After decades of neglect and systemic failure, we are finally getting our students and educators out of century-old schools and into the modern buildings they deserve,” said Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez. “This historic $500 million investment will truly transform our schools and the way students learn. We are proud to continue meeting the goals of the community’s Turnaround Action Plan and rebuild our schools, and education system, from the ground up.”

“The devastating 2019 Johns Hopkins report shed light on the reality that so many of our students and teachers live every day: attending school buildings that are falling apart. We’re not going to kick the can down the road – we’re going to invest in our kids and fix our schools,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “A full transformation is needed in Providence, and that’s exactly what this $500 million investment delivers. We will transform our school system brick by brick and provide a beacon of light for future generations. We share our gratitude with students and families, and look forward to brighter years ahead in the schools you deserve.”

The average age of a Providence Public School building is almost 75 years, with many buildings over 100 years old. Currently, just 5% of PPSD buildings are identified as high quality learning facilities. The funding for the $500 million plan to rebuild Providence Public Schools comes in part from a pair of school construction bonds passed in November 2022 by voters in Providence and statewide.

Since the bonds passed, PPSD and RIDE have been actively engaging community members on addressing the district’s severe building deficiencies. This campaign has included six community engagement sessions within the last month, both in-person and virtual. Direct messaging to all District families and paid advertisements invited community members to join these sessions. The District also launched a new website outlining the opportunities afforded by this historic investment in our schools, and has provided recordings of engagement sessions on the website for any community members who could not attend.

School Closures

The District’s oldest, underutilized, and lowest-attended buildings must come offline to make this plan to modernize Providence Public Schools possible. As a result, the Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary School at Broad Street and Carl G. Lauro Elementary School will close prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year. The two buildings are over 222 years old combined, and are consistently rated among the worst facilities in the city. It is estimated that it would cost $95 million to just make these two buildings safe, warm, and dry. Further, over the last decade enrollment has dropped by 40% at Broad Street and almost 50% at Lauro.

In addition, enrollment at Gilbert Stuart Middle School will be phased out over the next several years to allow for the construction of a new PreK-8 campus in the vicinity. The building will close at the conclusion of the 2024-2025 school year. Staff and families at Gilbert Stuart will also receive information of the transition of the building.

Staff and Family Support

The District is prioritizing a smooth transition for families and staff. No staff members will be laid off next year because of the closures of Broad and Lauro Elementary. Support sessions will be held on January 30, 31, and February 1, 2023, to support staff members who have questions about obtaining another position elsewhere in the District.

Families at Broad Street and Lauro will be able to complete a preference form to choose schools for their children and they will receive their school assignment as quickly as possible. There will be no service interruption to any family whose students are currently enrolled in specialized services such as Dual Language or Special Education programs at these schools. A comprehensive FAQ document with more information will be distributed to all families of the affected schools.

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