Construction at LaPerche, other elementary schools to finish by Aug. 14

Construction at LaPerche, other elementary schools to finish by Aug. 14

The new gym at LaPerche Elementary School is completed and will open at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

SMITHFIELD – Construction at all three Smithfield elementary schools is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 14, says Supt. Judy Paolucci, giving just enough time to move into the buildings before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Paolucci led a tour of construction at LaPerche Elementary School last Friday, July 9, where the banging and buzz of progress was in full swing indoors despite heavy rains.

“There’s literally hundreds of workers working on these projects every day,” Paolucci said.

Every section of the school was under construction, from the nearly finished addition with pre-K and kindergarten classrooms to community learning centers for arts, crafts and more, to the existing building where floors are being torn up for asbestos mitigation.

Paolucci said all corridors at LaPerche and 90 percent of its classrooms will be removed and replaced due to asbestos.

“LaPerche was built in the 1960s, that’s what everyone used. We will ensure these schools will be safe when we are done,” she said.

While the district could not afford to do everything that needed to be done at the three elementary schools, she said, Smithfield was able to stretch the $45 million bond to $65 million using RIDE reimbursements, and each school will appear significantly improved.

“The goal is to be done on time and on budget,” she said.

In the final weeks of the two-year process, Paolucci said she sees new needs every time she walks through the construction. At LaPerche, she said she hopes to add poster boards to the walls of the addition where students and teachers can hang art and other projects.

Walls that are not covered in protective plastic for the asbestos removal are being prepared for repainting. Paolucci said students at LaPerche were allowed to help peel paint in the final days of school. In addition to asbestos abatement, LaPerche received a new sprinkler system. The cafeteria will be decorated with new grant-funded vinyl murals highlighting healthy eating habits. LaPerche also received several energy-efficient upgrades, including a new boiler and new windows. Paolucci said she’d hoped that replacing the windows would help with leaks during rainstorms, but found out the brick siding on the windows needs work. With more than $1 million in contingency funds remaining, she said the plan is to fix the siding to prevent water from leaking in.

Many doorways in LaPerche were expanded to be ADA compliant. When expanding the doorways at Old County Road School, Paolucci said that workers again found issues where the top of the frame would not keep smoke or fire out during such an emergency. “These are the types of problems we anticipated to find along the way, and we’re doing our best to tackle them,” she said.

Old County also received a new music room, art space and a library, among other rooms, as well as a new learning laboratory and main office. McCabe received similar upgrades, including a new library and collaborative space, a new gym and more.

Paolucci emphasized that each school is receiving a comparable amount of work, and each includes additions.

Construction at LaPerche will also include a new playground, bright new flooring, new bathrooms, a new collaborative learning center, and more.

The pride and joy at LaPerche, Paolucci said, is the new gym and library.

With a completion date of Aug. 14, Paolucci stressed that teachers and administrators need time to move into the new buildings to prepare for the new school year. She said she hopes to hold tours of each school before starting the new year, but the timeline is tight.

“We’re confident we can do it. We’ve gotten this far despite the many challenges we face. We’re hoping to make it to the finish line with as few hiccups as possible,” Paolucci said.

Paolucci credited the project’s success to a great construction team led by Colliers International and collaborative effort between town and school officials.