EAST PROVIDENCE – Just two years after breathing life back into the Henry Barnard School on the Rhode Island College campus, Providence Country Day School will next year literally bring the school closer to home.
The private K-12 college preparatory school announced Wednesday that Barnard School, which serves as PCD’s elementary school, will move its operations to PCD’s 35-acre campus on Waterman Avenue next academic year. The plan calls for a multimillion-dollar renovation of Metcalf Hall that will house the Barnard School in addition to PCD’s middle school.
The decision to move the school’s operations comes nearly two years to the day after PCD partnered with the Henry Barnard School Association to make the Barnard School PCD’s new elementary school. RIC had operated the Barnard School but opted in the summer of 2020 to close the school because of financial difficulties the school had incurred at the time, but the Barnard School Association was then able to save the school from permanent closure in late December 2020.
“It’s time to bring our community together. We have been looking forward to this moment since the first days of connecting [the Barnard School] and PCD. The student-centric focus of these two historic institutions is unparalleled,” PCD Head of School Kevin Folan said in a statement. “I know this move will only allow us to continue to deliver on and elevate the experience of every student who steps foot on our campus. This year is a momentous one for our community – marking 100 years for PCD and 125 years for [the Barnard School] – and it feels right to celebrate that milestone together.”
PCD spokesperson Gregory Abel told Providence Business News Wednesday that having the Barnard School remain on the RIC campus was “never going to be long term.” He said the school negotiated with the state college on a lease agreement since the school could not move out of the building right away.
While he did not provide specific details, Abel said per the lease – which ran until 2026 but PCD had the option to leave early – PCD paid RIC “a big sum of money” for rent and utilities, well in excess of six figures for each. He said the costs for utilities at the Barnard School building were higher than the cost for utilities for PCD’s whole campus.
“What accelerated [our decision to leave] was that the building was … the building is kind of old,” Abel said. “The pipes are bursting; we had that when we had the cold snap [last month]. It’s a big giant space to heat. It’s also really inconvenient when we’re trying to do stuff with teachers working with teachers. We kind of realized that what we thought was going to be really easy connections were just not really conducive.”
Abel said RIC has plans for the Barnard School building once the school is vacated.
RIC spokesperson John Taraborelli in an email to PBN said the college is planning to build a new “one-stop student services center” on the campus. He said one of the sites on campus being considered for the new center is the Barnard School building. Taraborelli said RIC is currently awaiting approval on a proposal to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for American Rescue Plan Act funding to finance the project.
The Barnard School name will remain in use after the move to the PCD campus, Abel said.
Currently, Metcalf Hall houses PCD’s middle school on the first floor and an auditorium on the second floor. Regarding the $2 million project, which PCD will finance through donations and borrowed loans, the new Barnard School will be housed on the first floor with new classrooms, Abel said. The auditorium space will be converted into eight classrooms that will house the middle school. There will also be a new $250,000 playground.
Abel said there will be a temporary flexible auditorium constructed in the fieldhouse as PCD is preparing to build a new theater. It is unclear though when that new theater will be constructed on campus.
Fifty current Barnard School students and about 14 teachers and staff will make their way over from the RIC campus to PCD next academic year, with another 50 students enrolling in Barnard School in the fall, Abel said.
Construction will be on a very tight timeline. Abel said construction will begin at the end of May. Builders and architects will work throughout the summer to get the new Barnard School ready for the new school year, which starts at the end of August, Abel said, adding that Folan wants the school ready for the new year.
“We’re going to be cooking,” Abel said.
(UPDATE adds the ninth paragraph with comment from RIC spokesperson John Taraborelli regarding the college’s potential plans for the Barnard School building on campus.)
James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.
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Very strange, indeed. I always thought the HBS was the perfect place for RIC Ed majors to student teach.