EPHS Campus Review Tonight. Is a New High School Needed?
When East Providence High School opened in 1952, it received national acclaim as a "showplace of the Northeast for High Schools." With its sprawling two-floor campus, gleaming terrazzo tiling, professional auditorium, large swimming pool and galley and comprehensive academic course offerings, EPHS was a jewel. It remained so for thousands of graduates.
Tonight the East Providence City Council and School Committee will publicly receive and discuss an independent summary and analysis at City Hall on the condition and future of the 65 year old high school on Pawtucket avenue. The City Council has engaged the Slam Collaborative architectural firm along with Frank Locker Educational Planning. The full report will be released tonight at a 6:30 p.m. meeting in city council chambers. Many in the city want the building razed. One thought has a new school being built behind the current school, replacing all of the athletic fields. Presumably, once built, the old school would then be razed and fields could be relocated toward Pawtucket Avenue. A second proposal has a new school being built at the current site of the Pierce Field complex. It is unclear at this point if the football stadium and other ball fields would be able to relocate at the Pierce site.
"The purpose of this analysis is to assess the existing East Providence High School facility relative to its ability to support 21st century learning, how it compares with current Rhode Island Department of Education standards, and its current student enrollment capacity," is an introduction from the report.
The analysis is based on four components: current educational practices, vision for future educational practices, facility enrollment capacity related to RIDE standard and overall facility size related to state standards. The report concludes that "the facility falls short on every measure."
The analysis concludes that the current facility impairs and restricts school operations and educational deliveries. "It will be a bigger impediment as the school aspires to deliver 21st century learning."
The 240,000 square foot building which opened in 1952 has been neglected for several years according to many sources with direct knowledge of city business. Recommendations to spend money and time on school infrastructure needs were generally tough to appropriate under certain city councils and school committees.
In 2013 the High School swimming pool was closed down after receiving preliminary architectural estimates that it could take between $3.7 and $4 Million to repair the pool. "What more do our students have to endure with this latest news about the high school," said one high school staff member. In addition to physical education classes and interscholastic league athletics, the pool was used by several community groups throughout the year. "We were told that the pool is not compliant now with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. We also received a pretty damaging report on the pool's grim list of problems," said then school committee chairman Joel Monteiro in 2014. "A lot of stuff was evidently swept under the rug for years," said Monteiro.
In recent years the high school has received millions of dollars in school repairs and upgrades. The schools massive boiler room has relatively new boilers but the problem remains that plumbing and electrical that feed the power plant are beyond repair.
An expanded library, new science lab, new floor tiles throughout the building, new lighting and several other improvements are not expected to be enough to avoid a recommendation tonight that a brand new high school is needed in East Providence.
In a January 2016 city council - school committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Crowley said, "I've worked on and supervised major renovations on schools in four other districts." There are serious electrical and plumbing needs. We do need a professional engineering study. We have one science lab, although a great one, for 1500 students. The plumbing system is all clogged, the underground cavern of the school is amazing. There will be asbestos abatement needed, we have duct tape on some window frames to stop drafty windows, we must do something quickly. We have great teachers, it's the plant that is lacking. In my experience we are talking millions of dollars here. All of the other schools I refer to were not as old as this high school," Crowley added.
Indeed the high school accreditation process had been hindered on the campus infrastructure. "Our academics were a strong point for us. It's the building that needs work," said Crowley.
Although much work has been done on the high school, it appears that city officials were alarmed when getting the formal independent analysis of the school's future. Tonight will begin the long road to determine the future of the iconic Townie high school.