Blackstone Valley Prep Opens 4th School in 4 Years

On November 20th, Pare Corporation celebrated the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the newly-constructed Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 (BVPES2), located at 52 Broad St. in Cumberland, RI.  BVPES2 is the fourth Blackstone Valley Prep Academy that has opened in Rhode Island within the past four years, and the program is expected to grow to seven charter schools by 2017.  Blackstone Valley Prep charter schools offer a high-quality public school option to families of Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  Students are admitted via a lottery system.  Pare provided site/civil design, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, traffic/transportation engineering, and environmental services and permitting for the school.

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Students stand with Blackstone Valley Prep administrators and trustees to cut ribbon.

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A view of the newly constructed BVPES2 building.

This project was developed by Civic Builders, a non-profit organization operating from headquarters in New York City.  Since 2002, Civic Builders has made a large impact on the charter school movement on a national level.  Their organization aims to provide development responsibilities–such as financing, design and construction–to build or renovate inspiring schools in under-served neighborhoods.  As described on the Civic Builders website, “Our schools give under-served students—82% of whom live in poverty and 90% of whom are minorities—the opportunity to excel.”  Civic Builders partners with small independent charter schools as well as large charter school networks.  Projects range from renovations of existing facilities to new construction, like the Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2.  Civic Builders’ CEO, David Umansky, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, and spoke to students, faculty and guests about Civic Builders and the opportunities their mission strives to make possible.

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David Umansky, Civic Builders CEO, speaks to guests at ribbon cutting ceremony.

Charter Schools are currently on the rise in Rhode Island.  There are currently 25 charter schools in Rhode Island, and many of these charter school networks, including Blackstone Valley Prep, intend to expand in the coming years.  In 2014 there were 1,935 applications for Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 and only 185 open seats.  Students, which Blackstone Valley Prep refers to as scholars, complete an eight-hour school day that includes extra attention to the arts, and a focus on career and college readiness.

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BVPES2 students perform for guests at the ribbon cutting ceremony in their new dual-function auditorium.

Not all Rhode Islanders are pleased with the rise in charter schools.  Some groups including RI public school teachers claim that charter schools take needed funding away from public schools.  Unlike charter schools, public schools cannot accept private funding.  However, testing has shown that RI charter school students perform well in these new facilities.  Blackstone Valley Prep eighth graders ranked at 94% for proficiency in math in the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), the highest such ranking in Rhode Island.  While charter schools may be controversial in some cases, it is clear that Civic Builders and Blackstone Valley Prep are dedicated to improving education.

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Pare engineers joined volunteers to build the KABOOM! playground on Sept. 13th.

One aspect of this project that impressed the Pare team is the enthusiasm and support this project generated within the community.  As the project neared completion, several members of the Pare team participated in a volunteer project to build a KABOOM! playground for BVP students.  Parents, staff and volunteers of all types came together and assembled the KABOOM! playground in one day.  KABOOM! is a national non-profit that describes their mission as “dedicated to saving play for America’s children.  Our mission is to create great play spaces through the participation and leadership of communities.  Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.”  This playground is open to children outside of school hours.

The Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2  project was not without obstacles.  Previous development in the area presented the project team with difficulties related to historic sub-surface disturbance in the neighborhood, as well as routine pollutants (which are treated as anything but by the State School Siting regulations).  Pare was able to use its in-house expertise to overcome these obstacles, ensuring the success of the project.  The aggressive construction schedule also posed a significant challenge to the design of the project, as the structural construction documents were needed as an “early bid package.”  This meant that the structural design needed to be completed well ahead of other disciplines, requiring close coordination to meet this goal.  Pare was well equipped for this challenge, as the site design and geotechnical design were done in-house, streamlining the flow of design information.  Also, due to Pare’s close working relationship with the architect, Ai3, the team was able to identify critical items for the structural design so that decisions could be made in a timely manner.

Pare is proud to have been a contributing partner in the BVPES2 project, and looks forward to Blackstone Valley Prep’s continuing expansion and positive effect on Rhode Island education.

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