“Watch our vision come to life”:
By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
It will be some time before Charlotte Moffat, who has just completed her second year at Garden City Elementary School, can return to where she is known as her home of education.
But the wait, she believes, will be worth it.
The 68-year-old school will soon be transformed into a 21st century learning space. It is the culmination of a community process in which Charlotte and her peers, as well as their teachers, had a direct influence on the appearance of their new building, inside and out.
“I am so excited for the new school… I am excited to see what they add to the new school from our designs,” Charlotte told those who gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on July 15.
Jordan Robinson, also a third year at Garden City, echoed his classmate’s enthusiasm. Like Charlotte, she will be part of the first grade five class to spend a full academic year in the new building, which is slated to open in early 2023, before moving on to college.
Jordan spoke about the effort that went into designing the new facility – and mentioned some of the specific additions she’s most excited to see and use.
“I am so happy that the school is being rebuilt and expanding. We worked so hard to design the new school, ”she said. “I can’t wait to see the cozy corner and the rock face. The banana chair is going to be so popular, and I’m going to love it too… We’re so lucky to have this school before college.
Art teacher Marisa Iaocovone, who spent 10 of her 19 years teaching in Garden City, and music teacher Jessica Mazza, who has been in school for six years, shared the students’ optimism about the ‘to come up. Speaking after the official ceremony concluded, both said they believed the new space, when completed, would open up a range of possibilities and improve their ability to effectively instruct their students.
“It’s so important to create a stimulating environment. And it’s so archaic right now that it’s so hard to keep the children’s attention, ”said Iacovone. “So I think the environment is important. I think it makes the children feel safe. I think it helps the kids to do their best.
Over the past year, Iacovone, Mazza and the rest of the Garden City educators have undergone professional development in preparation for the arrival of the new building. It is a process that will continue.
Among the areas of interest? How to use new, more open and adaptable educational spaces, integrate programs with other teachers and conduct more interactive lessons.
“It’s been a lot of fun preparing this… because you can see the potential of what you can now do with this new space,” Mazza said.
The next year and more – which will be dedicated to a temporary home, the now vacant Chester W. Barrows school building will be “different,” Mazza said. She noted the irony of the Garden City community’s move from an aging building to an even older facility as part of a project focused on modernization.
“It’s taking a step back,” she said, “but it’s totally worth it in the end.”
Iacovone put it this way: “My analogy is like a workout. Sometimes you have to sweat and shed tears to get the result you want in the end. “
Confident that the spirit of the Garden City community will continue for months to come, she added, “It’s family here. We have that neighborhood feel, and hopefully we can bring it to Barrows. “
Last week’s groundbreaking event, which drew state and local dignitaries alongside families in Garden City, was the start of more than just the transformation of a single school building.
Cranston Public Schools are embarking on a five-year facility improvement project that was overwhelmingly approved by city voters through a $ 147 million municipal bond issue in November 2020. A significant reimbursement is expected from the state, which saw its own school construction obligation supported at the polls in 2018.
The Garden City project is the first of five projects to begin construction. The work, which is expected to take between one year and 18 months, is estimated to cost more than $ 40 million.
The existing school building, which dates from 1953, will be demolished. In its place on the approximately six-acre site will stand a new two-story facility covering over 80,000 square feet and capable of serving 575 students, a significant increase from the current capacity of just over 300. This, in turn, will accommodate the student body of Daniel D. Waterman Elementary School, which is also expected to close once the new facility is ready.
During construction, Garden City students and educators will relocate to Barrows, which closed in 2019. District officials said using the empty Edgewood school building will allow the Garden City community to stay. together whenever possible.
Consulting firm Fielding International oversaw the design, while engineering firm Jacobs is the project manager. Dimeo Construction is the contractor for the work.
During the dedication ceremony, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse referred to the so-called Pathfinder project at Eden Park Elementary School, which served as a preview of what would be in store with other facility upgrades. planned. This approximately $ 9 million project, which opened in 2019, involved the complete renovation of the middle wing of Eden Park into a new, modernized space designed in consultation with members of the school community.
“The furniture, lighting, room design are all driven by community contribution and are cutting edge 21st century educational designs,” Nota-Masse said of what’s to come at Garden City.
The superintendent pointed to the sign outside Garden City, which read, “GCS is more than a building, it’s a family. Bulldog pride.
“So yes, the building, the physical structure, can leave us, but what’s inside, what’s been around for decades in this community, won’t be demolished,” she said. “It will be rejuvenated and renovated and brought back even stronger than before. “
Regarding the impacts of the project on the school community and physical neighbors, Nota-Masse acknowledged that the coming year “is not going to be easy”.
“It will be embarrassing for some of you, especially those of you who live in this neighborhood … But I promise you the inconvenience will be worth it in the end when we have a state-of-the-art building, incredible to to offer. to our young people, ”she said.
In his remarks at the inauguration, Mayor Ken Hopkins highlighted his home’s proximity to Garden City – and his family’s deep connection to the school.
“I live right there. We will be inconvenienced. If I can manage it, the neighborhood can manage it, ”he said.
He added: “It’s a personal issue for me. My three children were born and raised on the next street, they went to this school. So seeing this school disappear is going to take away memories, but what I’m looking for is the future. From next year, I will have two grandchildren who will attend this new school. So we’re going to have the past, present, and future right here in Garden City.
A former educator, Hopkins echoed others in terms of the benefits he sees the push to improve school facilities will have for Cranston in the long run.
“This groundbreaking event is symbolic of our town’s commitment to educational excellence for every child in Cranston. This marks the start of a new era in the way we educate children in our community… [It will] make Cranston more attractive to families for decades to come, ”he said.
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner told attendees that the Garden City Project is one of 163 school repair or replacement initiatives approved for state funding so far through 2018 bond funding. stated that the state’s ability to provide a base repayment of 55% – up from 35% before the obligation was passed – both lightens the tax burden on communities and improves the encompassing of each project.
Magaziner began his career as an educator, spending two years with the Teach For America organization as a third and fourth grade teacher in Louisiana. He referred to this experience last week.
“I have flashbacks as I stand here… I taught in a building that looked a lot like this,” he said, adding, “Like this building, the one I taught in. was about seven decades old, and it was full of wonderful students and committed educators. But building was a limitation. Research shows that the quality of a school building has a direct impact on teachers’ ability to teach and students to learn.
Principal Bryan Byerlee, speaking from the podium, shared his perspective on the preparations for the Garden City project.
“The best part of this process for me was working with our students and seeing them participate and lead the design work… and their voices were awesome,” he said. “You might think they’d ask for a bouncy starter or a Chuck E. Cheese in the backyard, and one or two might have asked for a pool, but overall student requests included things like comfort. , the possibilities of getting around, access to the outdoors and to more natural lighting.
He added, “I also loved seeing the faces of teachers when they realize their days teaching from old audiovisual carts and keeping small groups in the hallways and hallways are numbered… We do this work. design and planning together, we’re ready, and we’re excited to see our vision come to life.
Representatives from the school district and various companies working on the Garden City project appeared before the city’s planning commission for a briefing on July 6. The commission is expected to formally consider the project’s main land use planning request in August.