Elementary renovations finishing in the nick of time

Elementary renovations finishing in the nick of time

The courtyard at Pleasant View Elementary School is nearly completed, and features outdoor seating for up to two classrooms. (Breeze photos by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – All three newly renovated Smithfield elementary schools will be ready for students to return today, Sept. 9, though each school has a punch list of projects to be completed throughout the year, according to Supt. Judy Paolucci.

Last Friday, Sept. 3, Paolucci led a tour of the three elementary schools for The Valley Breeze & Observer and School Committee member Rose Marie Cipriano.

Paolucci said the district plans to spend every dollar of the $42 million bonded for the project, and is looking through the schools for any additional needed work to tack on.

An air purifier was included in every room, Paolucci said, and combined with new windows in most rooms, students and teachers will have better air circulation to protect against COVID-19.

LaPerche Elementary School was built in 1967, McCabe in 1957, Old County in 1955, and Winsor in 1933. Each had problems, including asbestos flooring, leaking ceilings, and lack of ADA compliance. Paolucci said the major areas of concern were handled, and every classroom received some type of upgrade, even if only windows or new furniture.

Starting at LaPerche Elementary, at 11 Limerock Road, the sounds of construction could be heard and seen in nearly every corner of the building.

Some teachers began moving into classrooms in the new addition at LaPerche, though the bulk of the finishing work was completed over the weekend. Paolucci said it was crunch time, and expected to be in better shape as of the start of school.

“It’s hard to believe but they’re going to get it done and ready for kids to come back,” she said.

LaPerche received significant improvements to its preschool section, where additional students are coming from Pleasant View Elementary School, formerly McCabe Elementary,

“It’s crazy to believe how far we’ve come. This is incredible,” Paolucci said.

She said she was most proud of the new gym at LaPerche, which includes external doors to allow for the space to be used by the public while restricting access to the remainder of the school.

LaPerche also received new special education classrooms and more storage.

Teachers would not move into classrooms at Old County Road Elementary School, 200 Old County Road, until Tuesday, leaving just two days for setup. Paolucci said she’s allowing overtime for paraprofessionals and the district’s maintenance crews to help in the process.

New lockers lined the hallways of the two-story building, with workers inside and outside working up against the clock.

“It may not look like it, but we’re not in bad shape. This isn’t as much as you think it is,” Paolucci said.

A major factor behind the school’s unfinished appearance was paper liners on the floor protecting the surface.

“Once these are gone, you’ll really get the picture,” Paolucci said.

Major improvements at the school included building new offices for the main office and principal and more space for the library and music rooms.

Paolucci said the new art room on the second floor of the school lets in natural lighting provided by the new windows, which will be great for creating art.

“The view and the windows, this is an amazing space,” she said.

Pleasant View Elementary School, 100 Pleasant View Ave., is in the best shape for reopening on Thursday, with teachers beginning to move into classrooms at the same time finishing touches are completed by workers. Maintenance crews assisted teachers by removing cardboard boxes where items were stored during construction.

“They’re in good shape here. It’s good to see everyone working together,” Paolucci said.

Paolucci showed off the new media center at the school, which includes new seating and group workspaces. There are also new rooms for health classes, a wellness lab, and new classrooms to make room for former Winsor Elementary students coming from the closed school. The cafeteria will no longer serve as the auditorium, Paolucci said.

A grand public opening of the schools will not be scheduled until October, Paolucci said, to allow for the remaining projects to be completed.

Cipriano said she was impressed by the work accomplished, praising Paolucci for keeping everything together.

“This was a massive undertaking. The whole process was a lot of work, and it was done well and done right,” Cipriano said.

The media center at Pleasant View Elementary School features natural lighting, new seating areas, and a group learning center.