Current facilities updates to East Providence schools are on target to be completed

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EAST PROVIDENCE — As part of an update offered to the East Providence School Committee at its Tuesday, Aug. 13, meeting, City Facilities Manager Ed Catelli and David Frieder, a senior project architect from the firm Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, made note of the construction work completed and in the process of being done to the system’s buildings.

Mr. Catelli told the Committee some 110,000 square feet of asbestos abatement and replacement of floor tiles at East Providence High School will be done by the time it opens for the 2013-14 term in two weeks.

At Waddington Elementary in Riverside, where the early learning center is being moved with the closure of the Oldham building, a new fire safety system and public address (PA) system are being installed. New PA systems are also being installed at the high school, the Career and Tech Center and Martin Middle School.

At Meadowcrest, which is accepting most of those students from the Oldham closure and which used to house the early learning program, fire alarm system and energy updates are being completed. Eaton Aerospace, a recent business transplant to the city, has also donated over $100,000 toward redoing the building’s library and cafeteria, which doubles as a gym, as well as installing a new playground.

SMMA review

Mr. Frieder followed with a recap of the developments made since SMMA was hired by the School Department to lead improvements to its facilities in anticipation of a bond proposal presented to voters in November of 2010.

Initially, SMMA estimated it would take some $107 million for the department to update its facilities to 90 percent performance in relation to the level of what new buildings would offer. As part of that estimate, $30 million was targeted for “urgent” repairs, though the City Council at the time, May of 2010, only agreed to put a $15 million bond on that year’s ballot.

Four schools — EPHS, Martin Middle, Riverside Middle and Hennessey Elementary — were deemed most in need of attention. Notably, EPHS needed significant asbestos remediation, which took up a large chunk of the bond money. EPHS and Riverside each received significant improvements to its fire safety capabilities. Hennessey received a new roof.

The next steps in the process include completing the current projects and applying for reimbursement from the Rhode Island Department of Education, which could be as much of 42 percent of the entirety of the costs for the improvements. The third step is to submit applications and plans to RIDE for those improvements unattended currently, which include plumbing and electric upgrades, new windows, doors and roofs at the other schools.

Committee members Joel Monteiro and Tony Ferreira were the two most adamant voices Tuesday in expressing their concerns with the quality and productivity of the company tasked with making the improvements, Iron Construction. Both pointed to past errors Iron apparently has made and were leery of signing off on payment for work about to be finished.

At the suggestion of Mr. Catelli, a group of administrators and elected officials will review the work before any compensation is paid.

“It’s settled. Before the contractor is presented with a check, all of us will go on a tour to make sure the work was done correctly,” Mr. Catelli said.

More meeting notes

The School Committee officially signed off on the transfer of the name James R.D. Oldham Elementary School to the former Meadowcrest building. The Oldham structure was deemed insufficient to maintain by the East Providence Budget Commission and closed. Most students there will now take their studies in the renovated Meadowcrest facility. The remaining students will be housed at Waddington.

The Committee approved a request from the East Providence High School Music Department to take a trip to Italy during the February 2014 vacation week. The trip is being paid for by the students.

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