Superintendent: Cranston schools are safe despite need for upgrades

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — As the city of Cranston awaits the full results of a state-commissioned study on the condition of its school buildings, its superintendent of schools is assuring parents that all of the facilities are up to code and structurally sound.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) hired an outside firm to take a magnifying glass to all public school facilities in the state.

At a special meeting of the Cranston City Council Monday night, it was revealed that the evaluation found close to $190 million in deficiencies in the city’s school buildings.

“It was a stunning number to see, $190 million,” Cranston Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said. “But when you start to break it down over 23, 24 buildings, I really wasn’t surprised that it would be that much money.”

Nota-Masse said addressing the concerns will be a collaborative effort between school officials, the city and its taxpayers, and that any issues regarding students’ safety will be given top priority.

“Sometimes the cosmetic things take a back seat because we’re putting in sprinklers and things like that,” she said.

The study was conducted by Jacobs Engineering – a professional services firm based in Dallas – at a cost of $4 million.

Topping the list was Cranston High School East with nearly $21 million worth of deficiencies, followed by Hugh B. Bain Middle School at $17.5 million and Cranston High School West at $16.5 million.

The study found many schools were overcrowded and antiquated, with some of the buildings being nearly a century old.

“We’re trying to teach 21st century skills to students for the 21st century in buildings that were designed in the mid- to early 20th century,” Nota-Masse said.

The information released Monday night was just a summary of the findings. RIDE said the full report will be made public some time next month. Nota-Masse said it’s released, a task force comprised of school and city officials, taxpayers and business owners will be created to come up with an action plan for how best to address the deficiencies highlighted in the report.

Nota-Masse said consolidation and rebuilding are not being ruled out.

“I’m a resident and a parent as well,” she said. “So I look at this and I think our priority needs to support 21st century learning, and can we do that in the buildings we have.”