CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for an $83 million rebuild of Gladstone Elementary School that’s expected to be completed in time for the 2025-2026 school year.

This rendering of the updated Gladstone Elementary School in Cranston, R.I., was displayed at a press conference announcing the project’s groundbreaking on July 20, 2023. (Jake Holter/WPRI-TV)

“Eight years ago, we did a facilities check on all of our school buildings, and the report came back that Gladstone was in need of serious repair,” Cranston Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said. “Once we started to evaluate the efficiencies of repairing this building, it became clear that a complete tear-down and a new build was the more efficient and cost-effective way to go.”

The building, which was functioning as a school up until June 14, has “seen better days,” per Nota-Masse. From the outside, the classroom windows are visibly boarded up, with fans mounted in some to provide airflow.

“When we were interviewing students and asking them, ‘What would your ideal school be?’ … the one thing they wanted were windows that they could see out of,” Nota-Masse told 12 News.

She said the plans for the new building, which will host 600 to 700 children in kindergarten through grade 5 each day, prioritize natural light in learning spaces.

The new Gladstone Elementary School will be 40,000 square-feet larger than its predecessor, as the city plans to combine Gladstone and Arlington elementary schools in the new building. Its learning spaces will be modeled after Eden Park School in Garden City, where open floor plans contribute to “collaborative learning environments.”

In 2020, nearly 80% of Cranston voters approved a bond that would pay for updates to several town schools. The superintendent explained that the city will be receiving a 74% reimbursement from the state on the Gladstone building, calling that agreement a “significant support system” for the project.

“Initially, the building costs were probably about 30% less than they are now,” Nota-Masse said. “The plan had to evolve during the pandemic. But we wanted to make sure that this project did get off the ground because of the significant need here.”

Gladstone Elementary’s principal, Amy Vachon, acknowledged the long history of the current building, assuring the community, “Even though we may be tearing down a building, the heart of Gladstone will never be lost.”

Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins called the new Gladstone Elementary a “game changer” for the area. “It will make Cranston more appealing for more families … for decades to come,” he told reporters. “Preparing our students for the rest of their lives has never been more exciting than it is right now.”

Crews will begin tearing down the school on Monday, July 24.