CUMBERLAND – Blackstone Valley Prep High School is planning a major expansion on Broad Street, a move leaders there say will allow the school to get to its capacity and help alleviate traffic and parking issues on the property.
The expansion, planned for 65 Macondray St. and 5 Jones St., is on the Cumberland Technical Review Committee’s agenda for today, Oct. 28, at 10 a.m.
Jeremy Chiappetta, CEO and superintendent of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, said the school closed last month on the purchase of a mostly wooded property between the main building and Broad Street. The current footprint of the school will go from an L shape to a U shape with the addition of about 25,000 square feet of space on two floors, he said, and there will be extensive traffic and parking improvements on the new lot. The expansion will allow them to add significant parking and “a bunch of traffic off the street,” said Chiappetta.
The purchased property also has a dilapidated home, storefront and car shop on it.
Another lot that came along with the purchase has a use to be determined at a later date, said Chiappetta, and could be used for green space, more parking, another use, or sold off to the right investor.
The expansion will bring the capacity at the high school to 550 from the current 400, said Chiappetta.
Planning Director Jonathan Stevens said the town will need a traffic engineering impact analysis, and he’s recommending that it be done at the master plan level and not the later preliminary plan stage.
Traffic here remains an issue, he said, but in fairness to the school, COVID habits and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of Broad Street are major contributors in addition to the BVP schools.
Adding more capacity off to the school off Macondray and Jones Streets will likely bring traffic relief on Broad Street, he said.
BVP now owns the building outright after purchasing it a couple of years ago from Civic Builders.
Stevens described a plan to have the new wing open by August of 2023 as an “aggressive schedule,” saying the school plans to get its master plan application in pretty quickly in time for perhaps the November Planning Board meeting. It will likely be continued to January at that point to allow for a full traffic study and so all questions can be answered, he said.
Staff have also discussed development of a new parking lot in advance of final approval, which would allow classroom modules.
BVP, which accepts students by lottery from Cumberland, Lincoln, Pawtucket and Central Falls, now has six schools and is at about 2,200 students, 160 short of its scale of 2,360 students approved more than a decade ago.
The high school expansion has been in plans all along, Chiappetta noted, and the staff is now “just adding seats to the high school so we can fit everyone.”
“This gives us enough classrooms to get the high school at scale,” he said. Administrative offices would also be moved from modular units into the expanded facility.
Students who started in BVP Elementary School 3 are now 6th-graders, he said, while the first Elementary 2 kindergartners are now 10th-graders.
Work is still in the very early stages, said Chiappetta, with planning approvals for appropriate construction expected starting this fall and running into next spring.
Chiappetta said administrators are “incredibly excited” about the expansion plan, saying it has a lot of elements found in the existing high school, including community spaces and learning spaces.
Unlike previous projects done in partnership with Civic Builders, BVP will do this one on its own, he said, taking on debt and combining It with grants, state aid and other funding sources to complete the project.