Major renovation of Nathanael Greene set to begin

Major renovation of Nathanael Greene set to begin

Officials are set to kick off the renovation of Nathaniel Greene Elementary School in Pawtucket.

PAWTUCKET – School and city officials will celebrate the start today, Wednesday, of the second school reconstruction project in as many years, kick-starting the major renovation of Nathanael Greene Elementary School.

As with last year’s Potter-Burns Elementary renovation, students have been temporarily moved to the Pawtucket Annex on Central Avenue. Grades K-5 are at the Annex, while grade 6 has been permanently moved to Slater Junior High School, converting that school to a middle school model.

“It’s working out really well,” said Supt. Patti DiCenso.

One elementary school still has 6th-graders attending, said DiCenso. There’s “not as much of an emergency” to move 6th-graders out of Varieur Elementary School, said DiCenso, mainly because that school has an existing learning environment for that grade, including a music room and art room.

“Some of our schools don’t have that,” she said.

Another reason for 6th-graders to be moved to Slater is that there isn’t enough room at the Annex for all six grades, said DiCenso. Slater was the last junior high school with space to accommodate more students, she said.

Greene Elementary is scheduled to be ready for the start of school in September of the 2018-2019 school year, said DiCenso, just as Potter-Burns Elementary was opened for the start of the 2017-2018 year.

Observers will not notice as much exterior work happening at Greene as they did with Potter-Burns, said DiCenso. While Potter-Burns required extensive façade upgrades and a new rear entrance model, most work at Greene will happen inside.

School Committee Chairman Jay Charbonneau, who leads the school building committee, has done a great job getting feedback from teachers on what the new school should be, said DiCenso. Teachers have brought up concerns others haven’t thought of, she said, while also having a say on design, furniture and paint color. The whole school is being “beautifully designed” and “thoughtfully done,” she said.

The renovation of Greene, done thorugh a construction bond of $13.7 million, will be a significant accomplishment, but is by no means the final piece of the puzzle in revamping local schools, said DiCenso.

“We’re never done,” she said. “We have to keep going until we can get every school to this level.”

The Potter-Burns renovation was done through a $12 million construction bond. A total of 83 percent of the cost for both projects will be reimbursed to the city from the state.

The entirety of Greene, from seating to ceiling, will follow modern educational “regulations for optimal learning” in students, said DiCenso, from layout to natural lighting. Energy-efficient upgrades will save money on monthly bills.

Planning both Potter-Burns and Greene Elementary have been “a huge learning experience” for the district, said DiCenso. Unlike in the past, where classrooms weren’t always developed in a strategic way, all projects going forward will follow the new standard that these schools are setting.

Pawtucket voters approved a $32 million bond for school upgrades in 2014.

Once Greene is reopened and students moved back in, the Annex is set to become the permanent home of the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which is currently housed within the walls of Jenks Junior High School.

School officials are seeking to increase the capacity for JMW School, including adding high-tech and digital art programming, said DiCenso, and to do that the school really needs to have its own space separate from the junior high school with which is shares few commonalities.

“They can’t grow without their own space,” she said.

By creating more space at Jenks, more 6th grade spots may open up at that school, said DiCenso.

The timeline on JMW moving to the Annex has yet to be determined, said DiCenso. Though school officials were “forward thinking” when developing the Annex, some changes would still be needed to accommodate the arts school, including outfitting a dance studio. The cafeteria at the school would be used as the school’s theater space, while larger performances would be held at other local schools. A “lounge type of eating area” would likely be created at the new JMW where students could take their lunch to eat.