Superintendent: Cranston school renovation will be ‘model’ for RI

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — When students returned to Eden Park Elementary Tuesday, the school year wasn’t the only thing that was new. They entered a building that was totally transformed.

Eden Park just underwent a complete transformation. And, according to Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse, it won’t be the last.

For the past several years, Eyewitness News has been tracking the progress of refurbishing schools in our local communities. As districts focus on bringing buildings into the 21st century, cities and towns are exploring new ways of educating children in a cost-effective manner.  Communities like Cranston are doing total renovations, gutting buildings and creating open classrooms filled with light, technology, and new furniture to make learning fun.

Nota-Masse said the entire project at Eden Park was designed with both teacher and student input. 

Eden Park was built in 1951 and educates almost 300 students.  The plan is to utilize every square inch of the building. 

Nota-Masse calls Eden Park their model home. 

“This is our first project moving forward, innovative classrooms so after this is completed we know the state will use this going forward to design other classrooms not only in Cranston by other parts of the state,” Nota-Masse said.

The superintendent said the $8.8 million-project was funded with remaining money from previous bonds approved by Cranston voters.  She said totally renovating Eden Park was more cost-effective than building a new one. 

RELATED: With help of bond money, many RI schools going beyond repairs »

The former hallway – once wasted space – is now a learning area.  Classrooms renovated with new interactive technology, furniture and light shining into the rooms to create a comfortable environment to enhance the learning experience. 

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“Facilities matter. So, when students come into a naturally lit, bright, inviting modern classroom, they become more engaged.  Student engagement always increases performance.” Nota-Masse said, adding the project is also designed for children with a hearing impairment. 

“The floor is wired so that children who have hearing-assisted devices will automatically be connected and a teacher has a device to help them,” Nota-Masse said.

Eden Park Principal Courtney Sevigny said students need to be more active in their learning. 

“Years ago, we lost students in that shuffle and now we want the students to take ownership of their learning and drive what’s happening,” Sevigny said.  “That’s how we keep them engaged and excited and new space capitalizes on that.”

Superintendent Nota-Masse said in 2020, the city will have a bond on the ballot for Cranston voters to approve five different projects for five different schools.

The master plan, introduced last year, initially included knocking down the Gladstone Street School and building a brand new school, renovating Cranston High School West, renovating Park View Middle School, renovating and expanding Eden Park School, renovating and expanding Garden City School, and closing two elementary schools: Chester Barrows and Waterman.

However, Nota-Masse said everything is still fluid and is likely to change.

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