On May 9, guests from Climate Jobs RI, RI AFL-CIO, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, IBEW Local 99, RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and the RI …
On May 9, guests from Climate Jobs RI, RI AFL-CIO, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, IBEW Local 99, RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and the RI State Senate visited Gladstone Elementary School, Eden Park Elementary School and Garden City Elementary School. Joining them from Cranston Public Schools were Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse and Ed Collins, Chief of Facilities Management and Capital Projects.
The goal of the visit was to share with the guests the importance of designing schools based on the ability to deliver a 21st century education, the needs of the school community in each individual school and the impact on the environment. Formerly, the decision-making process for school construction or renovation was based on facility needs such as a new roof, new windows or a new floor, for example.
The guests were as follows: Erica Hammond, Climate Jobs RI; Michael Roles, Climate Jobs RI; Patrick Crowley, RI AFL-CIO; Autumn Guillotte, RI AFL-CIO; Priscilla De La Cruz, Audubon Society of Rhode Island; Nora Crowley, Rhode Island Senate; Joe Simons, IBEW Local 99; Frank Flynn, RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals; Senator Dawn Euer (Newport & Jamestown) Chair of the Senate Environment Committee; and Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner.
Throughout the morning, the visitors saw a selection of Cranston’s schools in all phases from the design phase at Gladstone School, to the partially finished phase at Eden Park, to the under construction phase at Garden City School.
“We do things differently here in Cranston,” said Collins. “We evaluate the schools based on their ability to deliver a 21st century education. Can that building be renovated for a 21st century education? Will the changes we make impact education? We put education first. Gladstone was a no across the board, so it’s coming down. We need to get away from the Band-Aid approach, beyond warm, safe and dry.”
Nota-Masse emphasized that educators are working hard to deliver a 21st century education in the district’s current buildings but are hampered by things sometimes as simple as the traditional small classroom sizes or the lack of electrical sockets in a classroom, because many of the schools were built in the early 1900s.
“It’s hard to use 21st century technology effectively when there’s only one plug and it’s in the front of the room,” said Nota-Masse.
Building schools for the 21st century and beyond also means that the schools are meeting top environmental standards. The schools are energy efficient and meet the Northeast Collaborative For High Performance Schools Criteria (NE-CHPS) standards, which were developed to promote optimal energy savings and sustainable design features in school construction and major renovation projects. Additionally, the schools being built will meet all current ADA requirements for accessibility.
In touring Gladstone, Collins explained that the school will be built for the families and community who attend that school. Nota-Masse also explained that there will be a community resource center component in the school design, in order to help families from the community connect with the resources they need. Gladstone School is a very diverse community with a high poverty rate.
Families, staff and students are all involved in Cranston’s school design and construction process from the beginning and throughout the projects. The staff has professional development beginning the year before construction begins, until the school opens.
“Promoting teacher collaboration and student engagement is everything,” Collins said.
As the guests toured the Gladstone pool area, which has not been in use for many years, he explained that the schools being built in Cranston now focus on usable educational space, versus empty spaces such as long, empty hallways and large, spacious foyers without an educational purpose.
At Eden Park Elementary School guests were given a tour by Principal Courtney Sevigny and they were able to see the finished Learning Community for grades three through five with the students and staff present and working together. Eden Park is earmarked in the current bond plan to be finished, as only one wing of the building, the Pathfinder Project, was completed as a “model home,” to show the path forward for school construction in Cranston. The guests were also able to see parts of the building that are scheduled to be in the next phase of construction at that school, such as the all-purpose room or as often known, the “cafe-gym-atorium” since it serves all three purposes. The schools being constructed now have a separate cafeteria and a separate gymnasium and many have an auditorium or a kevia, which is similar to an amphitheater for large groups of students to gather for presentations, speakers and the like.
Nota-Masse and Sevigny shared that the impact of a more engaging educational facility has already been seen at Eden Park with discipline referrals down and attendance rates up since the new wing opened. Those using the Sensory Room that was implemented in the new Learning Community are often students from the lower wing which hasn’t been completed yet.
“The whole Learning Community is sensory,” said Sevigny.
The visit also solidified for the guests the myth of the schools being designed as the “open classrooms” from the 1970s. They visited the Learning Studios and saw the walls, windows and small collaboration spaces within them. All teachers and students utilize the Learning Studios as well as the large and small collaboration spaces throughout the day, at least two different spaces a day, according to Sevigny. The students also have the ability to choose the flexible seating options that work best for them on any given day.
The Garden City Elementary School construction site visit allowed guests to meet with the superintendent of the project, Daniel Sullivan, first and then to tour the site which is at the point of steel beam erection now. The school will house all of the current Garden City Elementary students as well as the students from Waterman Elementary School.