EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — This fall marks two years since the brand-new East Providence High School first opened its doors.
Billed as a state-of-the-art facility, districts across the state and beyond are looking at it for inspiration. Aside from 21st-century classrooms, the school has a commercial kitchen for cooking classes, an indoor and outdoor greenhouse, an ambulance simulator for students interested in being EMTs, as well as automotive and construction shops.
The school even has a classroom set up like a dentist’s office, and that’s only scratching the surface of the four-story, 304,000 square foot facility.
Superintendent Sandra Forand said the high school has seen 150 new students since the building first opened, and demand is high for the career and technical programs. They had to turn away roughly 100 out-of-district students, Forand said.
But the $190 million building has come with its fair share of problems. East Providence School Committee member at-large Tony Ferreira showed 12 News a “punch list” last month of 42 concerns that need to be addressed both inside and outside the high school.
The concerns range from cracking sidewalks to backed up toilets and a burst pipe. Ferreira said there wasn’t enough transparency on the issues, and they weren’t being fixed fast enough.
The high school was constructed by Gilbane Building Company who broke ground in 2019. Since then, the new building has been built and the old one was torn down, then the athletic fields and other outside work was completed in 2022.
The East Providence School District Building Committee tells 12 News they have been working with Gilbane to address the issues that have arose since then.
The cooperative effort to right the wrongs has dropped the “punch list” down to 27.
“The idea that it could be accelerated, I think we’re not seeing that,” Nate Cahoon, co-chair of the East Providence High School Building Committee said. “I think we’re probably going about as fast as we can to make sure that everything is done reasonably and safely.”
The biggest issue to address, according to Cahoon, is a burst pipe in the back of the property by the football field. He said it took them by surprise when it happened last summer.
“When it burst, it created a sinkhole,” Cahoon explained, adding that it also compromised a light pole. The lack of lighting forced the high school’s football team to play last season at Pierce Field.
Cahoon said the pipe is expected to be repaired by June, and the football team will play this season at the high school’s field.
The other concerns, according to the committee members, are small enough where they’re not impacting day-to-day operations.
“They’re small enough that the operation of the school has not faltered at all. We have not missed days of school because of any of these punch list items,” Joel Monteiro, co-chair of the East Providence High School Building Committee added. “Even with the major issue of that drain, it did not impact the building, it did not impact education, it did not impact the extracurricular activities.”
The issues, these school leaders say, pale in comparison to the impact the school will have on future generations of Townies.
“People that are worried about the punch list only need to look at some neighboring communities that built new schools and can’t even open them,” said East Providence City Council President Bob Rodericks, who also sits on the building committee. “Look at the size of this campus and what we’ve done.”
“Those of us who graduated from East Providence High School know what it used to look like,” Cahoon added. “This is really a true community effort.”