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Renovations make 98-year-old school ready for future

A major renovation is getting underway at Potter Burns Elementary School in Pawtucket. (WJAR)

Pawtucket residents passed a bond initiative to invest nearly $250 million into local schools over the course of about 10 years. The changes will bring renovations to nearly every school building in a district.

Students will finally see their new space at Potter-Burns Elementary School, with those health and safety renovations, on Tuesday when their school year begins.

Before that moment, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and Pawtucket Schools Superintendent Patti DiCenso gave NBC 10 News a walk-through to preview the newly renovated elementary school.

"For us it was safety first -- that's what initiated all the problems we had -- we had a ceiling collapse,” Grebien said.

A partial ceiling collapse at this 98-year-old elementary school became the wake-up call for the Pawtucket community.

"It sent the message home,” said Grebien.

Residents passed a multi-million dollar bond to remodel Pawtucket schools -- and bring additions to classrooms -- based on changing educational needs.

"This is the first of 17 security doors,” said DiCenso.

These new kindergarten classrooms inside will now meet new space requirement standards.

"These rooms are actually bigger than the other rooms at Potter-Burns,” said DiCenso.

And another big change -- the bathrooms throughout the school won't look the same.

"These are our gender-neutral bathrooms, and they are all ADA-compliant,” said DiCenso.

In this area, the bathrooms aren't closed off by walls, so teachers can keep eyes and ears on the students -- who are between kindergarten and fifth grade.

It's an initiative to help teachers hear bullying and intervene.

The three-story school also has ramps and elevators for the first time, so students with disabilities will have equal access to all facilities.

"Access is what this is about,” said DiCenso.

The school showcase is part of Gov. Gina Raimondo's initiative -- an entire wing of the school focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math -- known as STEAM.

It's a part of community's shared vision, and those in charge are acting on those wishes.

“Constituents who went out and voted for this bond to make a better community, and I believe great cities have great schools,” said DiCenso.

Other Pawtucket schools will see some changes too.

More staff have been added to help with individualized instruction for students various middle schools.

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