Imagining Better School Buildings

by | Dec 8, 2021

The public is invited to “visioning” sessions starting next week

From Manuel Cordero’s perspective, the way schools and classrooms have long been arranged – think schools with long hallways and classrooms with desks in tidy rows – was appropriate when what most of us did after we got out of school was to work in places with long hallways and tidy rows (think manufacturing). 

But Cordero, an educational facility planner, said it’s no longer appropriate for students today who need spaces to work in groups and room to move around. 

“Needs are different; skills being taught are different,” he said at the School Committee meeting Tuesday night. And now, after years of getting to this point, the school district has embarked on a journey to see just what changes might be possible at the building level – as well as to contemplate what voters might be willing to approve when it comes to paying for such changes. 

EGSD is facing some tough realities, mainly aging and overcrowded facilities. Right now, following state Department of Education (RIDE) metrics, five out of the district’s six school buildings are overcrowded. Cole Middle School, which opened in 2011, is the exception.

The state is offering significant reimbursements for districts undertaking renovations and new construction. East Greenwich, like many other Rhode Island school districts, is hoping to take advantage of that. And while the school facilities team has been working on this for a while, including having hired a project manager – Colliers – with whom Cordero works, now they are inviting the public into the process. The district is hosting three Zoom sessions, on Dec. 15, 16 and 20, for the public to weigh in. (See details at the end of this article.)

On Tuesday, School Committee member Tim Munoz noted that the town had “a lot of legacy buildings” and wondered if it was even possible to restructure those spaces to meet the needs of current (and future) learning needs.

“I’m advocating on the community’s behalf and I think ultimately it’s a design problem,” said Cordero. He noted he’d been part of the renovation process at Nathanael Greene School in Pawtucket, a school that looks a lot like the 93-year-old Eldredge Elementary. Other EG schools could accommodate an addition more easily. 

“New construction should be on the table,” he said, and so should questions about grade realignment. “This is the moment to have all that on the table,” said Cordero. 

If you want to take part in the visioning sessions, there will be separate ones for the elementary, middle and high schools.

Middle School Visioning: Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., via Zoom (click here for the Zoom link).

High School Visioning: Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021: from 6 to 7:30 p.m., via Zoom – (click here for the Zoom link).

Elementary School Visioning: Monday, Dec. 20, 2021:  from 6 to 7:30 p.m., via Zoom – (click here for the Zoom link).

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