Renovations moving along at Nathanael Greene

Renovations moving along at Nathanael Greene

The second floor interior of Nathanael Greene Elementary School. The interior walls have been removed and are being re-framed. Some original details and woodworking will be preserved.
Roof costing $100,000 more than expected

PAWTUCKET – Six months into a $13.7 million renovation of Nathanael Greene Elementary School, the interior of the school has been gutted, windows have been removed, new wall framing and drywall is being installed, and prep work is underway for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

The renovations, managed by Colliers International, include significant improvements to the 65,217-square-foot school on Smithfield Avenue, which was constructed in 1916. Classrooms, offices, bathrooms, and the school library are being completely overhauled.

Supt. Patti DiCenso said it’s been quite an experience to watch the school stripped down and see “how solid the bones are.” Observing workers cutting into the school to install its various systems has been fascinating, she said.

School officials were surprised to learn the extent of severe issues with the roof, said DiCenso, brought about largely because it was built with two-by-four boards instead of standard roof joists. Ceiling joists and steel beams were installed to accommodate the weight of the heating and ventilation systems being installed on the roof.

Due to the entire roof needing to be replaced, a “change order” bumped costs for its replacement by $100,000, she said.

Administrators could only go by plans drafted when the school was built 100 years ago and weren’t aware of the extent of the damage to the roof, DiCenso said. One side of the rooftop, over an area that was previously shut down over structural safety concerns, had to be jacked up six inches, she said.

Over the next several weeks, crews will be completing the room framing, running electrical wiring, installing mechanical ductwork, completing underground piping and bringing new water gas and electric lines to the building. Then, new windows will begin to arrive and will be prepared for installation.

Nathanael Greene students are continuing their learning at the Annex on Central Avenue, formerly known as St. Leo the Great School, for the 2017-2018 school year as upgrades are completed.

DiCenso said school officials made the right decision targeting the recently complete Potter-Burns Elementary School and Nathanael Greene for top-to-bottom upgrades with $32 million previously approved by taxpayers. These two schools were in the worst shape, with major roof issues putting them “in the most fragile condition,” she said.

Change orders are common with projects such as this, said DiCenso. Previous issues have cropped up with asbestos found in window cement or the glue that holds up chalkboards.

Fortunately, said DiCenso, school leaders planned for unexpected costs.

Given the terrible condition of the roof at Nathanael Greene, DiCenso is now calling for a full inspection of the roofs at both Slater Junior High School and Shea High School, structures that have had ongoing issues.

“We really need to go check the entire roof on those schools,” she said.

Other improvements to Nathanael Greene include:

• A new bus drop-off and parking area to alleviate traffic on the main road;

• New interior and exterior entryways and doors to enhance traffic flow and security;

• New exterior play areas;

• New energy efficient windows;

• A new elevator;

• New mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems;

• Fire safety upgrades;

• Air conditioning on the first and second floors;

• And some masonry restoration.

A partnership between the city, City Council, School Committee and school administration is ensuring that all Pawtucket schools are seeing some form of health, safety and classroom upgrades, such as security card readers, fire alarm and heating systems, new desks and more.

Potter-Burns Elementary underwent a full renovation during the 2016-2017 school year.

Pawtucket voters previously approved a total of $56 million in bonds and reimbursement from the state. Sixty percent of Pawtucket’s school buildings are more than 50 years old.

“As a community, we knew that the investment in our school facilities was the right thing to do, but seeing the transformation at Potter-Burns School has far outweighed anything that we could have imagined,” said Mayor Donald Grebien in a statement. “The teachers, students and staff go to school every day energized and focused where they should be, on their learning.

“We are thrilled to be doing the same renovations at Nathanael Greene,” he added. “Together, we are making improvements at all of our schools to chip away at the long neglected issues, but we still have a long way to go.”

He said he is in full support of Gov. Gina Raimondo and State Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s proposal to expand funding to improve more local schools.

“The transformation taking place at Potter-Burns is remarkable,” said School Committee Chairman Gerard Charbonneau. “The transformation going on at Nathanael Greene is consistent with our shared commitment to provide a true 21st century learning environment. This team is delivering results across the district and has become a statewide model for school renovations.”

“The support we have received from the citizens of Pawtucket to allow us to create optimal learning environments for our children is truly humbling,” said DiCenso in a statement. “Our goal is to continue on until every student, staff member and family member walks through the doors of a 21st century school.”

Workers begin the installation of underground piping for new water, gas, and electric lines to Nathanael Greene.