Marieville community says goodbye to its school

Marieville community says goodbye to its school

Longtime PTA chairwoman Charlene Smith was honored for her decades of commitment to Marieville Elementary School on Monday during the school’s final assembly before it closes permanently. Pictured, Smith sits with Marieville students and her niece Tiffany as they watch a video of students and staff thanking Smith for all that she has done for the school community.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – As the final bell of the school year rings this week, the North Providence School District teeters on the brink of a major transitional period headlined by the closing of Marieville Elementary School.

The school, which will be permanently decommissioned after 89 years of service, held a “final goodbye” party last Saturday, June 8, including a memory wall, art displays, photo booth and more. A poster hung on the wall inviting attendees to add their signatures, which read: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

It was a bittersweet day for former teachers, staff and alumni of the school, who were given the opportunity to walk the halls for the last time, reconnect with one another and revel in the memories they made. The most common way to describe the school’s environment was “like family.”

Principal Amanda Donovan was moved to tears at the event, which she said was “overwhelming and amazing to be a part of … it was a special way to say goodbye.”

People stayed well after 6 p.m. when it was scheduled to end, walking the building and searching through stacks of old photos and other items.

“People are so vested in the history. You can tell this is an icon in the town,” said Donovan. “There’s just something about it. From day one when I walked into the building I felt welcome there. I’ve only been here for a year but I just fell in love with the place.”

As old as the building is, Donovan said, it’s the people who made it one of a kind. “The one word I can use to describe it is that it’s like a family.”

“I got very emotional for a few people,” said Mayor Charles Lombardi of the event last Saturday. Lombardi and his children attended the school, and he credits it with helping him get to where he is today.

“It was nice seeing some of the students and teachers I hadn’t seen in years and talking about the memories,” he said, notably his former teacher Pat Caccia, who later taught his son.

Growing up in Marieville, Lombardi said his schooling before 2nd grade began in a now-nonexistent wooden building behind the Marieville Fire Station. “Ninety percent of us went to Presentation Church. The guys became Boy Scouts, came of age and then went across the street to become a volunteer fireman,” he said. “Those were all in all some of the best days and years of my life.”

The future of the brick building at 1135 Mineral Spring Ave. has not yet been determined, but Lombardi said, “whatever comes in, we’re going to make sure it fits in well with the neighborhood and that taxpayers get the most bang for their buck.”

The town has no use for the building, he said, and would be looking to “get the best possible agreement together regarding its future use,” either by a sale or long-term lease option.

As Marieville prepares to shutter, two new elementary school facilities are preparing to welcome students for the first time in the fall. Construction on the new Stephen Olney and James L. McGuire Elementary Schools is set to wrap up this summer, just in time for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

A 41,870-square-foot building with 62,504 square feet of interior space will soon replace the former 28,831-square-foot Stephen Olney building. The new McGuire School has a footprint of 37,066 square feet with 61,968 of interior space. The former school facility was just 25,008 square feet.

The McGuire site will become slightly larger with the acquisition of a private home at 13 Cottage St., made formal by the Town Council on June 4. The home on that property will be treated by a pest control company and then torn down in the next couple of weeks.

The Stephen Olney site will also expand with the acquisition of another residential property by the town at 48 Barrett Ave. The closing on that home is scheduled for July 15, at which time care and control would be turned over to the School Department. It is also set to be demolished to improve the traffic pattern for buses outside of the new school.

The town is still interested in a third property, 42 Barrett Ave., which sits next to 48 Barrett. Its neighbor to the left was razed last summer after the town purchased the home, with the same future set for its neighbor to the right.

The homeowner, Lombardi said, is not interested in selling the home and expressed some trepidation in making a deal with the town after his previous property in Smithfield was taken via eminent domain to build the Fidelity campus.

In addition to the two major elementary school projects, a series of smaller projects on the district’s existing school facilities will also kick off on June 13.

North Providence High School is slated for air quality and fire alarm improvements. Greystone is scheduled for bathroom renovations, ADA improvements and other sitework. Plans are being drawn up for a new traffic pattern outside Centredale, Birchwood Middle will receive three new rooftop units to improve air circulation, and cracking in the walls will be addressed at Ricci Middle.

All of this work is expected to begin this week and be completed for the start of the next school year.

An early photo of Marieville Elementary School, which will close this week for good after nearly 90 years of service to local students.