Bristol hands Reynolds School keys back to school district

Most tenants are out; theater company is in limbo

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 12/2/20

With leases vacated and tenants (mostly) out, Bristol Town Administrator Steven Contente handed the keys to the Reynolds School to Bristol Warren Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Jonathan …

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Bristol hands Reynolds School keys back to school district

Most tenants are out; theater company is in limbo

Posted

With leases vacated and tenants (mostly) out, Bristol Town Administrator Steven Contente handed the keys to the Reynolds School to Bristol Warren Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Brice on Wednesday, Dec. 2. That was the date originally agreed upon when the Bristol Town Council voted unanimously to transfer the former school building back to the oversight of school district at an Oct. 21 meeting.

Most tenants were already moved out by this week, with many accommodated at the old State House across the street on the Town Common. Roger Williams University personnel were moving the last pieces of equipment from a basement ceramics studio as of Tuesday morning.

Decommissioned more than 10 years ago, the Reynolds School may be pressed back into service, thanks to the need to socially distance students beyond the current classroom capacity. At the Tuesday, Oct. 6, school committee meeting, Dr. Brice detailed the plan to the committee.

At that time, despite warnings that the pandemic might surge again late in the year, things seemed fairly stable and Dr. Brice thought they may be needing to house as many as 300 additional elementary school students, socially distant, in the semester beginning Dec. 10. That’s the number of elementary school students who chose fully remote learning in the fall.

As it has turned out, only 40 students are choosing to return next semester. Still, the district anticipates needing the space to effectively socially distance students as well as hold programming for which they do not currently have adequate space.

When it came time to decide which building should be pressed back into service, Reynolds, as the town’s only available ADA-compliant school building, was the obvious choice.

Theater company’s future uncertain

Regardless of whether or not their home was being repurposed, the Bristol Theatre Company’s future is in doubt until the pandemic is truly under control, and they are unlikely to stage any productions until late 2021 at the earliest. Now it is unclear if they will have a home to return to at that time.

“I’m hoping we can reach a compromise,” said theater company chairwoman Marie Knapman in October, something that school district seemed willing to consider at the time, particularly since they do not anticipate needing the space indefinitely.

Time will tell if the theater company can wait out what they hope will be a temporary displacement, or if they will become another casualty of COVID.

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