Advisory board gets introduction to Cranston's third high school

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As the Cranston Education Advisory Board (CEAB) progresses through their year, they have taken the opportunity to host their meetings at a variety of schools in Cranston. On Monday night they paid a visit to Cranston’s third high school, and often the least well known of the three, the New England Laborer’s Cranston Public School Construction and Career Academy (NEL/CPS). The academy is a small, public charter high school focused on students preparing for any one of three post-secondary pathways: construction, the World of Work, and college.

Created in 2002, there is no other school in the country that offers the type of heavy and highway construction education that is offered at NEL/CPS. (The program is not the same as the construction program at the local Cranston Area Career and Technical Center housed at Cranston West, which offers residential remodeling and other types of curriculum topics.)

“We are at 160 students now, with a capacity for 190,” said Executive Director Dennis Curran. “About half of our students come from Cranston and half from other towns such as Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Warwick and West Warwick. Half of our students are girls and most come for programs other than construction. This year, 18 of our seniors are in the construction pathway and 18 are in the World of Work program or preparing for a two- or four-year college.”

Curran showed a short video presentation which delved more deeply into showing the hands-on, project-based curriculum, small class sizes and personalized education which is NEL/CPS. The video contained feedback from parents, students, teachers, former students, and even employers, as the program’s World of Work pathway integrates work experience into the curriculum.

“Our seniors in the construction pathway have the opportunity after graduation to go right into a four-week, stipend apprenticeship program in Pomfret, Connecticut through the New England Laborers’ union. Upon completion of the program and with their NEL/CPS comprehensive high school diploma behind them, at 18 years old, they have now become eligible to work in the construction field, starting at $20.60 an hour with paid benefits and an annuity. They have also now earned 20 credits for CCRI towards an associate’s degree in technical studies,” said Curran. “It’s really quite remarkable. The union is a big supporter of our school and our construction teachers are laborers on loan to us through the school year as our instructors and work in the field during the summer months.”

He also noted that construction students spend a great deal of their senior year completing local community service projects such as the demolition and reconstruction of the Garden City Elementary School playground and the Hugh B. Bain Middle School front steps.

At the conclusion of Curran’s presentation, he invited families to visit for a tour, or for the schools’ upcoming open house on February 1 at 6 p.m. For more information about NEL/CPS, visit their website at www.nelscharterschool.net. 

Following Curran’s presentation, Jeff Gale, Ward 1 School Committee member reminded guests that budget season has begun. The first meeting on January 16 will be at Cranston High School East and will be where the budget is introduced. From there it will be a four to six-week process of examining and finalizing the budget for its presentation to the City Council.

Jim Dillon, representing Cranston Public Schools’ Central Administration as the district’s Executive Director of Student Information Systems/Data Management, spoke about the new secondary schedules that will begin in the upcoming school year. He encouraged parents to get acclimated with the new schedule changes, especially as the time comes for choosing classes for the fall semester.

The next meeting of CEAB will take place in the Cranston High School East Media Center on March 5.

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