EAST PROVIDENCE — The public, at least the few who accepted the open invitation, got an up-close view of improvements done and still in the process of being completed to the much-maligned East Providence High School structure Tuesday evening, Jan. 28.
The meeting, which was sponsored by the School Committee and rescheduled from last week due to snow, afforded the roughly three dozen parents, administrators, elected officials and other interested parties on hand the chance to tour the 60-plus-year-old facility, see what has already changed and get an insight into what still remains in the works.
Antone Dias, the lead architect on the EPHS project for the firm of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates in Fall River, led the tour along with City Facilities Manager Ed Catelli and former EPHS Building Manager Anthony Feola, who is now charged with guiding the building’s safety and security.
The tour started and ended in the revamped auditorium, a space that has had extensive improvements from lighting and carpeting to handicap access to a refurbished stage floor to remediation of asbestos wall tiles.
Asbestos is the bane of the building and has accounted for the bulk of the near eight figures in expenditures needed for it to remain open in recent years.
Mr. Dias told those in attendance during a walk through the halls of the some 135,000 square feet of new floor tiles in the walkways and classrooms necessary following the abatement of the original asbestos-based tiles. He also spoke of the new fire safety doors, sprinklers, fire suppression, speaker and intercom systems recently installed, which also chewed up a sizable portion of the $15 million bond voters approved for school fixes back in 2010.
The tour later moved to one of the five new computer labs that were recently completed, rooms which necessitated the installation of new electrical and technological wiring. The large music room, due to revamped state fire codes, received a second means of egress because it can hold over 50 people.
Another of the labs being remodeled, a science lab in Room 270, caused a bit of consternation to some of those on the tour Tuesday, specifically School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro and Committeeman Anthony Ferreira.
The lack of proper science facilities, like so much of what is wrong with the building in its current state, is one of the reasons why the New England Association of Schools and College has put EPHS on probation and is threatening to strip it of its accreditation.
Both Committeemen expressed their frustration with the seemingly unending delays in completing the lab, which Mr. Dias estimated was still some six weeks away from completion. A total of $175,000 has been earmarked for the project that was supposed to be originally completed for the start of school back in September of last year.
The room, however, remains in a skeletal form with exposed pipes and bare concrete floors. Messrs. Monteiro and Ferreira quizzed Mr. Dias on the reasons for the delay and his dealings with contractors. Mr. Dias took particular offense to an intimation by Mr. Ferreira of lack of proper oversight on the project.
Despite his reservations in regard to the science lab, Mr. Monteiro said the tour, in general, was beneficial to those who decided to attend.
“It’s good to let the public come through and gain some appreciation for what has been done and what we need to do,” Mr. Monteiro added. “It’s also an opportunity for us to get some feedback from parents and for them to be involved in the process. After all, this is ‘our’ school.
“We know we’re nowhere near where we need to be. Hopefully, as long as the public knows that we know there’s much left to do, they’ll give us the time we need to get things done. Because as a team, the School Committee and the administration, we’re trying to push every dollar we have available to us in the right place. We just need to be patient and get things done right.”