Panel Reviews 3 Elementary School Options

by | Jan 31, 2023

Above: What a new 1-5 school at Hanaford could look like, including how cars would line up at drop off or pickup. Find more diagrams 

Emphasis on Pre K-5 or 1-5 elementary schools with Eldredge sidelined; costs likely to dictate path forward 

The School Building Committee revisited three options for the possible future of EG schools in a meeting Tuesday morning (1/31/23). These are not the final options; rather they are the options outlined last fall, before the committee took a break in advance of the election. But while the plans are still just proposals, none of the three options presented Tuesday included Eldredge as a working school building. 

The cost of the various options is estimated in the $110 million to $120,000 range in fall 2022 dollars,  including $17 million for renovations at the high school*. Here are the options as outlined Tuesday:

  • Option A
    • New Build at Frenchtown for grades 3-5
    • Additions/Renovations at Hanaford for grades K-2
    • Additions/Renovations at Meadowbrook for grades PreK-2
    • Eldredge closed as a school
  • Option B
    • New Build at Frenchtown for grades PreK-5
    • New Build at Hanaford for grades PreK-5
    • Eldredge closed as a school
    • Meadowbrook closed as a school
  • Option C
    • New Build at Frenchtown for grades 1-5
    • New Build at Hanaford for grades 1-5
    • Renovations at Meadowbrook for grades PreK-K
    • Eldredge closed as a school

Here is a link to the slides presented at the Tuesday meeting: Review of Past Work Completed. (Editor’s note: This link was added Thursday, 2/2/23).

Regarding Eldredge, Derek Osterman of project manager Colliers, said it could be adapted to serve another function, perhaps as office space for the school district and the town, or a community meeting and adult education space, or a historic center, among other ideas.

The thinking behind decommissioning Eldredge as a school is that there is no way to refashion the nearly 100-year-old building to meet the needs of students today (much less into the future) without extensive and expensive renovations. 

But Osterman said he and other planners got the message that neighborhood schools were important to many in East Greenwich. That’s why, after he went through all three options, he said the one that seemed to fit the needs of the town best could be Option C, which would include new grade 1-5 schools at Frenchtown and Hanaford, a renovation at Meadowbrook to turn it into a PreK-K school for the whole district, and the decommissioning of Eldredge. 

Osterman emphasized several times that no matter what “option” the committee, school district and town decided to go with, there will be changes as design concepts are fine tuned. 

Resident Justin Cahir questioned how the plans would handle a possible influx of students in coming years, based on the population increase in East Greenwich in recent years (the town went from 13,100 to 14,300 residents between 2010 and 2020, according to the most recent census). 

Was it possible that, post-construction, the district could end up with the same crowded schools it’s dealing with now, he asked? 

“It’s the obligation [of this planning process] to not set you up for a situation where overcrowding would continue,” said Osterman. “What’s going to be tricky … is that we need to look at the enrollment numbers today because that’s what we know. We then look at projections … about what might happen in the future.” 

The aim would be to not under build but also not overbuild, he said, since taxpayers will be on the hook. 

“We are one of the few communities in Rhode Island showing growth … and we clearly have to factor that in,” said Town Manager Andy Nota, a member of the building committee. “We’re a small town. We function and look a lot bigger at times,” he said, but in the end, a town of 14,000 people will need to limit what it can do. 

Committee members acknowledged there are many in the community who would like to keep Eldredge as a school, some whose children are there now who can walk to school and others who went to Eldredge 30, 40, 50 or 60 years ago and have fond memories.

“When Eldredge was built, that’s what we knew about education,” said Supt. Brian Ricca, noting that just because sixth grade looked a certain way 50 years ago, that’s not a reason it should continue to look that way today. And he pushed back against the idea that “if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough now.”  

“We want more than just fine for our students,” said Ricca. “We know there are things we can do to help. It’s very clear this community wants excellence for its schools. This isn’t just my vision.”

He added, “Teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge… ‘the sage on the stage.’ They are facilitators of learning. Our kids have phones [engaging them] in ways that surpass what we used to do in education…. Our learning spaces need to reflect that.”

After the meeting, Nota spoke of the need to phase the work, noting that most other districts were not looking to redo their whole school district at one time. 

“There’s no way the community can afford to do everything at one time,” he said. “That’s the compromise…. Although today you might want to build out a big capacity, you’re going to have trouble building the elementary system and getting the high school renovated at a number that everyone who lives here today can afford and is willing to support in a referendum. It would be a big number.”

That big number could be – if money were no object, Nota said – $200 million. 

“Clearly, that’s not possible, even if the town [only] has to pay $100 million of that [with state reimbursements]. The numbers just don’t work for a town of this size. So you have to figure out what the Phase One is. Maybe one new school and some significant work at the other schools. But you’ll know a lot more about projections and enrollment by then too.”

The School Building Committee next meets on Tuesday, Feb. 14, again at 9:30 a.m. At that meeting the panel plans to have lined up other meeting dates, including some in the evening.

*The original version of this story incorrectly stated cost estimates did not include money for renovations at the high school. We regret the error. 

Read more:

Sch. Building Committee’s Job? Narrow to Single Plan, Soon

School Construction: Everything Remains on the Table

School Building Committee Exploring Possible Grade Realignments

Building Committee Recommends Decommissioning Eldredge


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Kim Edge
Kim Edge
February 1, 2023 8:32 am

So the plans offered would have us spend hundreds of millions of dollars without a plan to update the high school (which is at risk of losing it’s accreditations due to disrepair); without a plan for continued growth; while forcing us to lose our beloved Eldredge without a plan for its future use, putting the town at risk to have a huge rundown building in it’s center similar to the current post office? All because our kids deserve a new kind of education because they can now get information from their phones? I think we should pass and ask for better plans.

I was at RISD last night and they have found very creative ways to embrace and update their historic buildings. Can you imagine if all of College Hill walked away from their history and historic buildings and did what this committee is insisting we have to do as a town to be part of the future?

William Zech
William Zech
February 1, 2023 10:42 am
Reply to  Kim Edge

I totally agree with this viewpoint … Eldredge school was built when craftsmanship was valued and has survived the test of time unlike so many new buildings which have health and structural issues from day one. I just don’t want to see Eldredge sitting vacant and empty so if another viable use for the building was brought forward NOW, I may be all for it.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
February 1, 2023 10:15 am

We still have not been told what Eldredge School needs in order to comply with the requirements these people are looking for. We asked this before the election. Not forthcoming. Maybe when they start being more transparent about that, they can begin a dialog with the community that will have to pay for it. Even more important than the school buildings is what is being taught in them. Holding these meeting in the morning on workdays is not convenient. With a Zoom availability… well I tried it. Couldn’t understand most of what was said because no one talks into a mike. This is no way to run a business and no business would run this way.

Christopher Lamendola
Christopher Lamendola
February 1, 2023 11:28 am

How could any EG resident trust this Building Committee and School Committee when they unknowingly hire the same firm to plan and control building new schools for our community ($100M+) when they were intimately involved as the Town’s paid building project manager with destroying homes surrounding the last project, Cole. Wouldn’t you think they would know or want to know, maybe inquire about what transpired with the destroyed resident’s homes and property before re-hiring basically the same firm involved in such a new momentous project? Don’t the current School Committee members want to know?? What was this firm’s role in the damage? Why are we re-hiring this firm? Information is valuable, knowledge is power and you would think from those in control of educating our children and maintaining the value of our homes and property in EG, they would at the minimum inquire. Why would EG residents think it would be different this time with this firm and the gall to come back for more money (millions) after this fiasco! This Building Committee/School Committee just ignores recent history, could care less about the truth and awards unbelievably bad behavior to the same firm with more $$ for those involved. What could possibly go wrong? I am going to share emails from this firm soon so everyone knows who and what kind of “professional” entity East Greenwich taxpayers are dealing with and paying their tax dollars for! This Building Committee and School Committee doesn’t want to know or deal with the past, the truth and can’t be trusted!

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
February 1, 2023 1:20 pm

I would like to point out as a member of this committee, the EG school facilities are currently failing our students – our facilities are outdated and simply haven’t kept up with the current standards. There was lots of good information in yesterday’s meeting. I would also like to add that those who are advocating for Eldredge (which all 3 of my kids attended) is sentiment I understand. However it can also be used as a community resource, like career education and public space. Eldredge is 100 years old and the cost to bring it up to current educational standards will be in the millions along with the disruption to a very congested area. Children are being tutored in closets at Eldredge according the principal and superintendent.

All 3 options are on the table and can be changed and or added to. Finally Eldredge has a 50% neighborhood attendance (the highest in EG). The majority of schools in EG are not neighborhood schools and we have a significant amount of children who are bused. Children who attend Eldredge also include those who live on Shippee Rd. – far from the school and a long ride. Unfortunately the town does not own much property at all, so we are working with those limitations Any decisions will be in conjunction with public outreach. I would hope people can have a productive conversation regarding this. If we do nothing, we will fail.

Christopher Lamendola
Christopher Lamendola
February 1, 2023 3:44 pm
Reply to  Renu Englehart

Councilor Englehart, why do you not question this firm Colliers on keeping Eldridge open? You just take Colliers word? Do they have a vested interest? I am not sure what you are talking about on neighborhood schools as Meadowbrook, Hanaford and Eldridge are ALL neighborhood schools. Maybe because of the current pairing system of the schools you don’t’ consider them neighborhood schools? There will always be bussing of children who live on the outskirts of these schools. What is being proposed a large majority of children will be bussed to different locations away from their neighborhoods.

What is more concerning is your reluctance to address the issues which I have brought forward about the firm hired to lead this project. You have no concerns or are you just going to stick your head in the sand like the rest of the School Committee and ignore the past and the behavior of this project manager? Don’t they get paid a percentage of the project, so the more the project costs the fatter the paycheck? As a member of this Committee, you should be questioning everything, especially in the current economic climate and how about holding these meetings in the evening like SC and TC meeting so the people who are going to pay for this project (if it is approved) can attend and comment.

Joe G
Joe G
February 1, 2023 1:55 pm

Just a few things:
-Stop holding such important meetings at a time that excludes everyone who works. These sorts of meetings should be held in the evenings.
-I’m going to need more than “Teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge…Our kids have phones” to convince me that Eldridge is not fit for purpose. That’s a nothing burger. These are young kids, what should the be “learning” from their phones?
– This is the school with the highest neighborhood attendance. Kids actually walk and bike to school here. How is that being treated as a negative? This is something we should promote

February 4, 2023 11:23 am
Reply to  Joe G

Educational needs with priorities must be shared with the community. If the need requires physical structures, it should be noted, justified and presented to all citizens. Councilor Englehart stated “our facilities are outdated and simply haven’t kept up with the current standards”. What are the current standards compared to present standards? Which of these standards are directly related to the passage of 110 -120 million dollar project?

Do we need physical maintenance on our schools? Yes. Just take a walk around Frenchtown and you will see roof soffits and fascias that need replacement. What else is needed that is not being presented to the town? The playgrounds need maintenance at all the schools. This does not mean we need to tear it down and replace with a new structures What we need is a school budget that properly funds the maintenance of it’s physical structures, with the taxes citizens pay to the town.

All options must include Eldredge as an operational part of educational space (not administrative offices). As noted by the town manager, the population of East Greenwich is growing. We also have state mandates of adding more affordable homes sites. Current mandates (Pre-K) and possible future (Free lunches for all) have and will impact the cost of education. Are we planning for these costs? It appears we are doing planning in silos.

Another point is a new kind of education must begin with not relying on information from phones or other electronic devices. We need to teach logic and reason. Logic and reason is not obtained by phones or the new “chat gpt” applications. Officer training in the military requires the service member to navigate in the woods without a phone or any other electronic device. Why? We need to rely on ourselves not technology for staying alive.

February 1, 2023 10:53 pm

Our facilities are outdated and not keeping up because of the committee and the school district’s decisions on where money should be spent. I want my kids to attend Eldredge. I have to sentimental attachments to the school as you say. I moved to EG two years ago and a huge factor was that my kids could go to that school.

Yes, the building is old. We all know that. Spend the money to give it life again. The committee and the district act as if no district or college has old building that are still fully functional and a treasure of the institution.

We don’t want it to be a public space or a career center. You talk about disruption to the community but that would be a much more long term disruption as a whole.

You talk about kids attending Eldredge who live on Shippee. Let’s reverse that and how about the kids that live in the hill & harbor district who get bussed to Frenchtown daily? It’s the same thing so please stop using that as an excuse.

My kid currently attends Frenchtown and the place is a mess as well. I’m talking about the building. The place looks like it hasn’t had any love or upkeep on years. In the pickup line you can literally see trim and other aspects of the building rotting (years worth of rot), the walking paths are all uneven and it clearly wasn’t designed for a bigger school even with more buildings.

Go to Eldredge at dismissal time. I’ll tell you what you’ll see. You’ll see kids walking together to grab a bite to eat or walking to Starbucks to hang out. You’ll see kids going to Academy after to play basketball or hangout. You’ll see kids meet to walk home together or with their parents. You’ll see a community. A great community that the school district and the school committee are trying to take away. That’s not something you just throw away and say it’s not good enough.

Better ideas need to be brought up or go back to the drawing board because all plans that were laid out are terrible and simple minded.

February 2, 2023 12:08 am

So if I understand correctly, the people in these comments would happily scrap plans to improve all schools for all children so that one school that serves some children can be updated and maintained? It sounds like some are making Eldredge the priority while others are making the district as a whole the priority.

Also, I’m assuming everyone in these comments has thoroughly examined the extensive amount of work that’s gone into these recommendations?

February 2, 2023 8:22 am

People in the community want Eldredge to be updated and maintained to continue to be a school as well as other schools be renovated. The plans as a whole do not need to be scraped to do that. People are not saying they don’t care about the other schools. They are saying that they are not okay with just the Eldredge aspect of the plans.

And yes, people are looking at the plans that get published. And people want to see something different because they are not happy with the recommendations. This is the input rom from the community that the district and the committee are asking for.


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