By JEN COWART Special to the Herald Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories produced by Cranston Public Schools highlighting the specific projects that would be funded through a $147 million bond question going before voters on Nov. 3.
Special to the Herald
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories produced by Cranston Public Schools highlighting the specific projects that would be funded through a $147 million bond question going before voters on Nov. 3. The school bond will be question No. 2 on the ballot.
This week’s spotlight school project is Park View Middle School.
Park View was built 66 years ago in 1954, just after the conclusion of the Korean War, and is one of four middle schools in the district. It is the second oldest of the four. It is older than the statewide average of 56 years old for all public school buildings. It currently houses nearly 700 students.
The building is three stories tall yet lacks any elevators at all, and as a result, it is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. The building also does not contain fire sprinklers.
The entryway of the building consists of a large, open lobby area with immediate access to both the gymnasium and the auditorium, while the main office and visitor check-in area is further down, through the lobby doors. During recent assessments by Jacobs Engineering in 2016 and by E.W. Burman in 2018, Park View was given a Facility Condition Index of 36.92 percent, rated “poor.”
An educational highlight of Cranston Public Schools’ proposed five-year plans includes a new Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEAM) Engineering Center, which will replace the current basement-level computer lab area at Park View. The STEAM Center will house a new pilot program to introduce students at the middle school level to modern design and engineering. The program will help students who are interested in careers in this area receive an early introduction to the field and gain skills early on.
In terms of facility upgrades, in the proposed plans the main entryway at Park View would be completely renovated and updated to be welcoming and secure. It would feature security at the main entrance doors, a secure waiting area and a security vestibule. As the lobby is often used for community events, a new student exhibition area is also included in the plans.
New fire alarm and sprinkler systems would be installed to protect the entire school. As part of the fire protection installation, all classrooms, other academic spaces and corridors will receive new acoustical ceilings and modern lighting fixtures. Two new ADA-rated elevators will also be installed, connecting all levels of the school. New boys and girls locker facilities are planned, and will include updated ventilation systems.
This fall, Cranston voters will be asked to support a school construction bond that will allow the Cranston Public Schools to begin to renovate and update aging school facilities over a five-year period.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how dire the need is for improvements to school facilities in Cranston, and the school district has been among the first at the table in Rhode Island with a comprehensive plan that will capitalize on state reimbursement opportunities.
The city is eligible to receive between 54 and 74 percent in reimbursement from the state, money that would be given to other communities had Cranston not been ready with its plans from the get-go. The Cranston Public Schools five-year plan has not only been recognized by the state, but the first project, the Eden Park Pathfinder Project completed in 2019, has been recognized both nationally and internationally and has shown both the city and the state what the rest of the schools can and will look like as Cranston Public Schools begins to take the much-needed steps towards modernization and expansion.
Cranston Public Schools leadership was very thoughtful in planning out these five projects, being certain to impact as many students in as many parts of the city and at as many educational levels as possible with the upgrades.
It is also important to note that the bond includes $14 million allotted to address district-wide potential health and safety issues in any other school building that may occur during the five-year period. This will allow qualifying projects to also be reimbursable if they are included in the plan.
The proposed five-year plan will help ensure that the city of Cranston will continue to draw families to its neighborhoods because of its schools. The school construction bond on the Nov. 3 election ballot will impact the students of today and for generations to come. It will impact property values across the city and will help to get the local economy back on its feet post-COVID-19, as the projects will provide many job opportunities.
The investment in the Cranston Public Schools five-year plan is an investment for the entire community and for the future of the city of Cranston.