See inside Providence’s new Spaziano Elementary School, a $44-million project

See inside Providence’s new Spaziano Elementary School, a $44-million project

Amy Russo
Providence Journal

“This new school … is more than brick and mortar,” said principal Abdi Lidonde. “It’s a living embodiment of our vision to empower students.”

The $44-million Spaziano Elementary School has already welcomed a flood of new students and could eventually fill around 600 seats, nearly meeting the enrollment cap.

Elected officials and other stakeholders held a ceremonial ribbon cutting outside the Laban Street school on Friday, marking the third new school the Providence Public School District has opened this year.

“When we send out students and teachers to schools that are crumbling, we are sending a message that mediocre is OK,” said Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green.

She added that when the state took over Providence public schools in 2019, she heard concerns about the cleanliness and condition of buildings that students were attending each day.

“We’re happy to say that is all changing,” Infante-Green said.

Spaziano Elementary students get ready to play inside the school’s gym. The newly opened building is part of the district’s effort to get more kids into 21st-century schools.

Spaziano, which was demolished and then rebuilt, features an airy, modern gymnasium, vibrantly colored couches, reading areas, STEM rooms and places for outdoor play.

“This new school … is more than brick and mortar,” said principal Abdi Lidonde. “It’s a living embodiment of our vision to empower students. The modern classrooms and facilities are designed to inspire curiosity and creativity.”

A reading nook at Spaziano Elementary School, one of three new schools the Providence Public School District opened this year.

The school, which broke ground on construction in 2022 and took more than a year to complete, got off to a rocky start with what PPSD Superintendent Javier Montañez described as “unforeseen construction delays.” As the school year got underway, students at Spaziano were delayed by three days as the project wrapped up and an inspection took place.

“There are many members of the construction team who are here,” Mayor Brett Smiley said at the ribbon cutting. “A few of them had a couple angry calls from me at some point or another, but I’m grateful to see the final product.”

The building is part of PPSD’s “newer and fewer” approach, which the district has described as an effort to stop putting Band-Aids on structural issues and instead “replacing old, crumbling buildings with fewer new ones.” The plan also takes into account declining enrollment, which has plummeted by more than 3,000 students over the last several years. The district anticipates another decline of the same size by 2030.