EAST PROVIDENCE — As it rises above the horizon, reaching its anticipated height, it not only serves as a beacon of the city’s future, but now also offers a welcomed respite from the madness of the moment.
Appreciably to just about everyone in the community, work continues on the new East Providence High School in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, the project certainly considered an “essential” one here during what is a historically difficult time for all.
Contractors approached another project milestone in recent days as the structural steel skeleton of the $189.5 million, four-story building just about took shape.
New EPHS Building Committee co-chairmen Nate Cahoon, a city councilor from Ward 3, and Joel Monteiro, the at-large member of the school committee noted the project remains on schedule and slightly under budget. They cited the school as a “bright spot in these somewhat grim times,” adding the steel structure “can be seen for miles around, and stands as a testament to East Providence’s commitment to progress, and to its residents.”
The project, as a reference, became a reality in November of 2018 when voters approved a referenda items at the local and state levels. Over the ensuing months the administration and School Committee engaged with the Rhode Island Department of Education to set it in motion. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June of 2019 as construction started. Late last year, the final designs were given the green light, then the foundation was poured. The first strands of steel were put into place a few months back in February.
Messrs. Cahoon and Monteiro added, “While steel erection is currently the most visible aspect of the project, work will proceed in the coming days and months on many of the less obvious, but crucial, elements of the new building, underground utilities, plumbing, etc. This is truly an exciting time for East Providence, and like all the other Townies out there, the Building Committee can't wait to tour the finished product.”
At the moment, the frame of the new high school is beginning to be defined. The staircases at either end of the building capped with their decorative forms.
A deeper look inside into what is the south section of the new EPHS, closest to the adjacent Providence Country Day School property, reveals part of the concrete tiered seating section of the future auditorium becoming visible.
The center of the building, where the main entrance will be located with access to the new cafeteria then leading at the rear to the planned outdoor students commons area along with what will be the reconstructed athletics stadium, is also starting to be easily conceptualized.
“The framework of the building is just about complete, which I’m excited to see happen,” said Superintendent Kathryn Crowley. “The next step is enclosing the building, which makes me happy too. And the fact that it all means we’re still on-time and ready to be open in 2021 makes me happiest of all.”
One of the key qualifications on Mrs. Crowley’s resume when she applied for and was hired to become the district’s top administrator back in the fall of 2015 was her previous experience leading the effort to construct a new school in Little Compton. She did so, but the projects have gone substantially different in her opinion.
The superintendent, also a member of the new EPHS Building Committee, said it has been much smoother process, especially for such a large structure. Asked about the differences in her experience here and elsewhere, she continued,
“No. 1, the building committee is very good. It has the right mix of people from a broad spectrum. It’s a very cohesive committee. They’re working like a charm, bouncing ideas off of each other. It’s very positive. That has been a beacon. No. 2, Gilbane, the architects (Ai3) and our owner project manager (Peregrine Group) are working very collaboratively. We’re meeting regularly. Everyone is up-to-date and informed. Everything right now, even with all this coronavirus situation, has really been right on time.”
The noteworthy moment on the new EPHS timeline also hasn’t been lost on others who have long been proponents of the project, including former teacher, current district athletic director and state representative from District 65 in city Gregg Amore.
“As I look out from my office window, it occurs to me that the tennis courts and softball field are the only outdoor athletic facilities remaining on campus and they are now sitting in the shadow of what will be the best high school and community, indoor and outdoor athletic facility in our state,” Mr. Amore said.
Mr. Amore’s office currently resides at the rear of the existing 68-year-old building. His new one will similarly be situated on the north side of the next incarnation of EPHS. Most of the facilities for athletics will take shape after the new school is nearing completion, switching from the rear of grounds to the front along Pawtucket Avenue.
“At a time when the world seems to have stopped, the construction of the new East Providence High School has continued,” Mr. Amore added. “And now that the steel has been erected, we can see the bones and outline of what will be a magnificent building. It serves as a sign of hope for better times during this difficult one.”
Addressing the process during the pandemic and also the impetus to seeing the effort continue for other key factors, Messrs. Cahoon and Monteiro said, “There can be no doubt that we're living in uncertain times. And the Building Committee, along with our Owner's Project Manager team, is keenly focused on detecting and addressing any COVID-19 related impacts to schedule. We must do everything we can to ‘roll with the punches,’ and work to hold to the baseline schedule. It is important to remember that construction is on the fast track, not because the city is trying to set records, but because there is a reasonable possibility that the old building will experience a catastrophic and/or prohibitively expensive failure in the very near term. Rest assured that your team is fully engaged, and very much on the job.”
The co-chairs added, “So as we look for answers to help us navigate through these troubles waters, let's take an occasional look skyward for inspiration. The new East Providence High School will be the heart of our community for the next century, and it's more important now than ever that we do all we can to keep this project on track.”
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