Demo of old East Providence High School finally begins

Delayed nearly a month because of gas line concerns

By Mike Rego
Posted 8/2/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — After a near one month delay demolition of the existing East Providence High School structure began in earnest Monday morning, Aug. 2.

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Demo of old East Providence High School finally begins

Delayed nearly a month because of gas line concerns

Video by Rich Dionne

EAST PROVIDENCE — After a near one month delay demolition of the existing East Providence High School structure began in earnest Monday morning, Aug. 2.

Phase 1 of demo, being done by the J.R. Vinagro Corp., started with the addition built some 20 years ago to accommodate the arrival of freshmen to high school in the change from a junior high to a middle school structure in the district. It is expected to take the rest of the week for the wing to be torn down.

Vinagro had machinery on site for the better part of July awaiting clearance to start the tear down and the district met its mark of turning over a vacated current EPHS structure to the project’s lead contractor, Gilbane, by the start of July. However, the expected razing of the building stalled over concerns about gas lines leading into the property. Some three lines were identified, two of which were believed to dated and out of service. The third line was considered to be active and needed to be turned off.

National Grid was contacted to examine the situation, but the company gave a range of between Wednesday, July 14, through Thursday, July 29, eventually making its evaluation on the last day of the span and allowing for demo to start this week.

Vinagro, which is also handling razing for the Henderson Bridge reconstruction effort in city, is then slated to remain on site for the duration of the month to demolish the rest of the original building after abatement is completed. Gilbane was overseeing the abatement of the main portion of the 70-year-old existing structure. The majority of the old building, completed in 1952, contains materials (i.e. asbestos) now deemed as contaminants.

Representatives from Vinagro said the aim is to have most of the old building torn down before the start of the 2020-21 term the last week of August, which has been the target date since the start of the summer.

The asbestos-heavy gym and pool area of the former school will be the last demoed. Any asbestos or contaminated material must be separated from the rest of the debris during the process, which lengthens the effort. Vinagro expects to “live load” during demolition, lining up a number of trucks on the property to remove the debris throughout each day.

Where the old high school sits, once its completely remediated and graded, will in the near future feature lighted artificial turf fields for the EPHS baseball and softball programs as well as practice areas for other fall and spring sports along lighted tennis courts for use by the Townies and the community.

The demolition process started promptly at 8 a.m. on August 2 and a steady stream of onlookers gathered all day in the “Shoppers Town” plaza across Pawtucket Avenue to watch.

“It’s very bittersweet to watch it come down. I’m very excited for the new building, but it’s a little sad to see the old one go,” said Amy Giammarco, a current EPHS Mathematics teacher in her 13th year in the district.

“It’s sad to see it come down, but (Ms. Giammarco) said the new school is all modern. It’s amazing. But it’s still sad to see this landmark come down,” added David Enos, EPHS Class of 1969, who lamented the fact that past politicians and administrators failed to maintain the old structure. “I don’t understand why they didn’t keep it up.”

All the while, the key components of the $189.5 million new EPHS project are well on their way towards being completed in time for the start of classes, which is expected to take place on August 30. The fourth and third floors of classrooms of the four-story structure are being outfitted with furniture and finishings as are other parts of the building as contractors take a “top-down” approach to preparing it for students and staff.

“I will say that I’m very excited to see us holding to schedule and budget as we have throughout the process,” new EPHS Building Committee co-chair Nate Cahoon said of the start of demolition and the continued effort to get the new structure ready.

Mr. Cahoon leads the committee in concert with Joel Monteiro, who added the following, "Today’s demo is another major step towards the realization of the hard work that so many have put into this project. It also verified the schedule as being on track. I’m so excited with every phase of this project as it rolls out. Our city is doing a wonderful thing."

Officials remind the public no visitors are allowed on the property during demolition and to maintain proper distance if viewing from locations near the work site.

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