New Olney, McGuire schools open

New Olney, McGuire schools open

Stephen Olney Elementary School Principal Janine Napolitano stands in one of the new 2nd-grade classrooms. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – On the eve of the first day of school in North Providence, a group of state and local officials got their first look inside the town’s two new Elementary Schools.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 4, members of the Town Council, School Committee, General Assembly and other local leaders went back to school to tour the state-of-the-art facilities, beginning with Stephen Olney Elementary School and ending at McGuire Elementary School.

The overwhelming feeling expressed by officials, including Mayor Charles Lombardi, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. William O'Brien, was awe.

"This is great," Lombardi kept repeating. "Worth the wait."

Though the tours were posted as open meetings, members of the public were not allowed inside.

Stephen Olney, located at 1378 Douglas Ave., now has a commanding presence atop the hill off Mineral Spring Avenue. The school can be seen from far up Mineral Spring Avenue, with its brick façade and bright blue paneling.

The school’s main entrance is on Salem Drive, with a back entrance and parking off Barrett Avenue.

At McGuire, a grouping of circular windows at the front of the school stands next to the student entrance. Visitors enter the school from a set of stairs at the back of the building, where the parking lot is located.

Both schools are equipped with state-of-the-art playground equipment outside, with areas intended for both younger and older students. Project Manager Chad Healey described the surface of the play areas as a “bouncy ball material,” which is more forgiving when students fall, with far less risk of injury.

Nearly every regular education classroom at both schools is equipped with a smart TV, a large touch screen monitor that can be used to show movies and clips and present information to students. Healey said the classrooms, while varying in design, are quite large, “…certainly sufficient for the number of students we’re planning on having in them.”

There’s plenty of storage both within the brightly colored classroom spaces and out in the hallways, where several “Learning Commons” are set up to create meeting spaces for students. Some of the walls and surfaces in the hallways are dry-erase boards, and there are tables with “fidget” chairs available, which pivot and rock but never fall over.

Common spaces such as these are featured prominently in both buildings, including comfy seating, reading nooks and other areas intended for teachers to conduct smaller lessons on the side, or use in conjunction with their classroom.

“There is a lot of versatility with these spaces, and that was intended throughout the design,” Healey said. “Throughout these two schools, you’ll notice a lot of spaces that may be intended for one thing, but designed with the expectation that they might be used for something else.”

“We created different types of spaces with the intent that teachers sort of go wild with their imagination and use these spaces however they fit the curriculum they’re teaching at the time,” he said.

The cafeterias double as auditoriums, providing a stage area for presentations and special events at each school. The schools also boast large gymnasiums, designed specifically to keep the echo down, featuring motorized basketball hoops and other technology.

Other interesting features include larger reading nooks at both schools, where smaller groups of students will have the opportunity to curl up with a book on a beanbag chair. Each school also contains a large music room and a library/media center.

Each school has a new reception area with security cameras and a waiting room for visitors.

“Security was very much one of our biggest concerns and interests in constructing these schools,” Healey said.

Throughout the schools, there is a focus on primary colors, circles and squares, which Healey said was an attempt to provide a sense of imagination for students.

The town is tentatively planning ribbon-cutting ceremonies, open to the public, for Sept. 28 at McGuire and Oct. 5 at Stephen Olney.

These new schools were funded through a $75 million bond approved by town taxpayers.

North Providence town officials and School Committee members tour the new Stephen Olney Elementary School in North Providence on Wednesday, Sept. 4, to look at the new classrooms that await students returning for the new school year. Conducting a tour of the new school is Chad Healey, a representative of Colliers International who managed the building project.
The new cafeteria at Stephen Olney School features bright colors and plenty of sunlight.
Town Councilor Stefano Famiglietti steps into a cozy reading nook, located off the library media center at McGuire Elementary School, joined by Project Manager Chad Healey. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dozenrod)
School and town officials climb the stairs at the new McGuire Elementary School. In the background, so-called “bird boxes” offer a nook for students to sit and peer out.