3 Providence schools closing as part of $500M plan to rebuild ‘crumbling schools’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island Department of Education and Providence Public Schools District have confirmed three schools will be closing as part of a $500 million to plan to rebuild the city’s schools.

The confirmation from the Department of  Education and Providence schools comes after the Providence Teachers Union said staff at Lauro and Feinstein at Broad Street elementary schools were informed at a meeting Tuesday afternoon regarding the schools closing.

“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,” read a joint release from the Department of Education and Providence schools.

The Department of Education also announced Gilbert Stuart Middle School will be phased out over the next several years and will be replaced by a new K-8 campus near the current location of Stuart.

The closures, which have been in the headlines since the weekend after the union was critical over the lack of transparency about the process, is part of the $500 million plan rebuild crumbling schools in the district in what officials are calling a “newer and fewer” approach.

“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,” reads a portion of the release.

Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providence Teachers Union, said she was blindsided by the news– alongside parents, students, and other teachers.

“I just find this whole thing absurd,” said Calabro. “When did this come about and how long did you have these conversations?”

According to Calabro, teachers at the closing schools will have to apply within the district to other schools. There is no guarantee they will be hired.

She added, “Many teachers in the building I was in said, ‘Why would I stay in Providence after this?’ By doing this in this manner without inclusivity, without conversation, without respect, we are going to lose some of the best teachers that we have.”

Officials said this approach has been done in several districts across the state, including Newport, North Providence, and Smithfield.

“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 superintendent added.

District and state officials announced the following schools will be renovated and new construction:

  • 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 Sept. 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

 

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