Above: A diagram of Eldredge with additions (plan 4) – one of the ideas that would retain Eldredge as a school.
The East Greenwich School Building Committee met Tuesday morning to discuss updated information on the estimated $100 million-plus proposed school construction plans. While none of the three plans have been approved, all would include closing Eldredge Elementary School with the expectation to repurpose the historic building. The focus of the meeting was to address the possibility of including Eldredge in the renovating process.
“No decision has been made,” said Derek Osterman, project manager at Colliers, when discussing the possibility of Eldredge closing. “Longer term, perhaps, Eldredge may not be well suited to serve elementary ed.” He cited the age of the building and the already overcrowded classrooms as stumbling blocks not only now but in the future.
Osterman cited four hypothetical plans to address why it would be challenging to include Eldredge in construction plans. “We came up with a series of four concepts and tried to test them and see what was possible,” he said.
The first plan would be a new build on the existing field. Students could still attend school while construction occurred, and it would maximize the site area. However, he mentioned that it would require demolishing the historic building, would reduce outdoor community space, and might create traffic issues.
“We’re not certain if it’s even buildable in terms of the field down below,” Osterman said. “But if it were to be buildable, it would be the simplest.”
Plans 2 and 4
The second and fourth plans would call for additions to the existing building. While it is possible to add something “sensitively,” said Osterman, “It could not be sensitively done affordably.”
To this point, Mark Schwager, EG Town Council president, said, “I’ve heard from members of the community that, ‘Well, Brown University has 300-year-old buildings, why can’t we add an architecturally appropriate addition?’”
“We don’t have their endowment,” said Alyson Powell, vice chair of the EG School Committee.
In addition to the cost of creating attachments to the historic building, Eldredge itself would have to be vacated at times for construction purposes, and the additions may be out of keeping with the historical nature of the building.
The third suggested plan would be to renovate the historic building itself, with no additions.
“In order to eliminate the overcrowding problem and develop [modern] classrooms … We end up with a building, from the interior, that is in some ways gutted,” Osterman said. “We only end up being able to provide one class per grade in the school.”
Additionally, Osterman noted taking this project on would likely be so costly it would jeopardize the renovation budget at the other elementary schools.
Leave As Is?
After the presentation, Schwager floated a hypothetical. What if a parent says their children had a good experience at Eldredge? “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Schwager said. “Why don’t we just leave Eldredge as it is?”
“We know more about education than we did one generation ago,” said Supt. Brian Ricca. “Eldredge was built in the 1920s; best practice in education in the 1920s pales compared to best practice in education in 2023. As a dad, I want more than ‘fine’ for my own children when I send them to school; so as the superintendent of schools in East Greenwich, I want more than ‘fine’ for our EG students.”
Ricca added, “I want better educational equity for all students in East Greenwich to honor our strategic plan, All Means All.”