Everyone would probably agree that deferred maintenance should not be the driver for innovative learning in public school districts. Yet the demands of aging buildings are often what forces a district to finally take action and consider the future not just of the “hardware” but also the “software” of learning for their students.

Cranston Public School District in Rhode Island recently faced this reality: the majority of their schools were well beyond their serviceable life and were designed for learning in the Industrial Age. And no community, least of all Cranston, could afford the nearly $2.2 billion it would take to build 22 new schools.

Recreating Schools Designed for Another Age

Cranston isn’t alone. Experts hired by the state conducted a Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Facility Condition Report, which painted a bleak picture of the condition of most Rhode Island public schools. Concerned by what the reporting revealed, RIDE created new guidelines for modernization reimbursement, stating that a critical goal for all schools utilizing state bond funds is to improve schools beyond “warm, safe and dry”. They felt that for Rhode Island public schools to compete nationally, they must be redesigned to reflect the Digital Age in which we live now and be flexible enough to sustain future ages as well. So as an incentive, Rhode Island public school districts will now be eligible for a substantial increase in construction reimbursement offered by the State if they follow more innovative education guidelines. 

Preventing a “Brain Drain” in Cranston

Generational sustainability became the guiding principal of Fielding International’s work with Cranston Public Schools. We worked together to create a district Master Plan that rated their facilities physically, but also for innovative educational potential. Keeping residents from leaving for better school systems outside the area is a primary goal; the community is devoted to ensuring societal vitality while maintaining the deep area connections for Cranston residents. In our experience, success in this type of planning can lead to difficult decisions about beloved buildings, so all the community must be involved in the process and come to consensus.

Our educational visioning and community engagement revealed the importance of creating trusting relationships within the community to support strategic decisions and implement changes to propel deeper learning. We created a comprehensive, detailed Master Facility Plan that prioritized innovative educational objectives, and addressed long-term facility needs for all 22 active public schools of the Cranston District. It forms the basis for moving forward with prioritized updates and renovations.

Older and more traditional communities are facing similar issues with aged buildings designed for learning in the past. The Cranston Public School District story demonstrates that a complex and emotional planning process is not just about buildings, but can result in improving learning experiences for area students.

Project Data

Total Estimated Cost: 2.2 Billion: Reimbursing cities and towns between $80 million and $100 million a year for renovations that provide innovative learning spaces

Quote:

“This is a new way to go through the schools, focusing on their educational value,” he said. There will be no more Band-Aid approach.”

Ed Collins, District Facility Manager of Cranston Public Schools

A Look at Our Process

Our educational visioning and community engagement revealed the importance of creating trusting relationships within the community to support strategic decisions and implement changes to propel deeper learning.

We created a comprehensive, detailed Master Facility Plan that prioritized innovative educational objectives, and addressed long-term facility needs for all 22 active public schools of the Cranston District. It forms the basis for moving forward with prioritized updates and renovations.