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School Officials Report Significant Progress on NEASC Concerns

More than half of items outstanding with about $700,000 left out of $15 million.

From left, Kelly and Michael Cipriano listen to a description of work performed at EPHS. CREDIT Rob Borkowski
From left, Kelly and Michael Cipriano listen to a description of work performed at EPHS. CREDIT Rob Borkowski
Thirty people showed for the School Committee's tour of progress on a $15 million project addressing accreditation-jeopardizing problems at East Providence High School officials hope will ward off further sanction.

Though the district had been under a warning from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) the school's accreditation was in danger since 2008, said School Committeeman Tim Conley, and had a $15 million bond to fix the issues highlighted by the association, little progress was made on the project till the school was put on accreditation probation in May of 2013.  

In that time, he said, the project has advanced from having roughly 10 percent of the issues finished to about 40 percent, he said. 

But NEASC's deadline to address the issues is nearing in May, he said, and the budget remaining construction budget has dwindled. Now, said Antone Dias, architect at Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, the firm handling the project, there's only about $700,000 left to work with.

When speaking to the crowd after their tour of the building, Conley said he felt it was the lack of progress on the building's required upgrades since 2008 that moved the school from warning to probationary status. Now, he said, a lot more progress has been made, and losing accreditation isn't as great a danger. "I don't think that's very likely," he said.

Highlights of the tour included a review of the auditorium, to be re-painted within the next two weeks, which has been re-carpeted and has had all the asbestos tiles within physical reach replaced. The danger with the asbestos tiles, he said, lies in the possibility that people will rub against it. In an effort to make their budget stretch as far as possible, only the asbestos tiles within reach of people were replaced, he said.

In the hallway, Dias pointed out that all the floor tiles in the halls and classroom had been replaced, about 35,000 sq. ft worth. He said the speaker/public address system has also been replaced.

In a music room, Tony Feolla, security manager, pointed out strategically replaced soundproofing tiles. "Let me tell you, this room looks much better than it was a year ago," said Kelly Cipriano, there with her husband Michael. 

Michael said he was disappointed the tour didn't focus more on what the project had not yet accomplished. He said he was concerned about the remaining $700,000 in the budget, "Which doesn't go very far," he said.

At Room 207, a chemistry room still under construction, School Committee Members Tony Ferreira and Chairman Joel Monteiro pressured Dias on the progress on demolition of a raised dais in the room.

While Dias said a chemical spill followed by a mercury spill had delayed work on the room, the Committee members were not convinced. Monteiro said even with those incidents, the demolition should've been started in November, but the task was overlooked by a contractor. "Wherever they're at needs to come second to this," Monteiro said. 

In the auditorium, Superintendent Kim Mercer assured parents the heating problem that nearly closed the high school two weeks ago was all but remedied. She said on Tuesday, the school had had one classroom at 65 degrees. 

Mercer agreed with Conley's assessment of the construction project's progress. "I think we've got a good jump on it now," she said.
EPHS STUDENT January 29, 2014 at 08:17 PM
On Tuesday when it was 40 degrees out.... All last week and the week before there were a significant amount of rooms under 65 degrees, she knows that too, for a fact. One was down to 51 on one of those cold days.

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