At one time it was the headquarters of Mitt Romney’s failed presidential run, and after that a high-end furniture store, but this year the building abutting the North Washington Street Bridge has become the hopes and dreams of hundreds of school children and their parents – many of them from the area.
After living in cramped quarters with few amenities for years, Eliot School Principal Traci Walker, of Charlestown, welcomed students and families to a brand new facility that houses innovation labs and grades 5-8.
“For me, it’s a dream come true because we are a school community in 2007 that had 139 students and were not a top choice by many,” said Walker. “In 2019, we have three campuses and 732 students…Being a parent of students that went here in the past, this new school is all that more amazing. It’s amazing to see it go from one school to three buildings and the new buildings that we have. This building has so much potential.”
The new Eliot Innovation School is one of the first of two new schools completed in the district (the other being the Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury)
The Eliot K-8 School is located on three campuses in the North End – with the lower grades in the historic building on Charter Street, the upper school on North Bennet Street and the new school on Commercial Street. While many North End families choose the school, nearly 300 students there hail from Charlestown – as does Walker.
The new school was procured by the City about three years ago, and construction began in 2017. Now, the building with waterfront views has been fully reconstructed to house classrooms and special labs.
Walker pointed out that the new building houses a robotics lab, a digital arts lab, a music lab and a spacious fitness room – all of which is bathed in healthy proportions of natural light from the many large windows included in the construction.
Another key amenity on site is a MyWay Café and full-size cafeteria. Students have access to fresh food every day cooked onsite and a spacious area to eat.
“The kids are really excited about this,” said Walker. “They can come up and choose what they want and the food is really good. They have so much space in the cafeteria as well, and we never had that. Plus, it can be used as flex space as well. We had a singer from the Boston Lyric Opera come in and perform in here recently. Everyone loved it.”
While grades 5-8 call the school their permanent home on the upper floors, the first floor is the place where students from the other campuses also come to do their special learning offerings like robotics and graphic arts.
Another key thing is the ‘Learning Nooks’ that are included in the upper floor layouts. Outside of every ‘studio’ (which is what the Eliot calls their classrooms) are flexible spaces with benches and open space dovetailed with floor to ceiling windows. The space is able to be used by anyone, she said.
Teachers can pull out certain students for special lessons or one-one-one attention.
Other classes can use the space for their own purposes, and in reality, virtually every space can be repurposed for any activity during downtime, Walker said.
“We have a great music room, but every room in this building is flexible,” she said. “Maybe it’s a music room most of the time, but if it’s not being used, a student can come in and use it to read a book in a quiet location.”
The school has been a hit with everyone so far, she said, and students and families are taking ownership. Morale is high, and she said the school is on an amazing trajectory to better prepare its public school students for high school.
“This is our new space,” she said. “The faculty has always done amazing things, but with this new building there are new opportunities…The smiles and joy that we see as kids go into these classrooms just magnifies what we have already done at the Eliot. The flexibility this gives us helps us to better prepare our students…Before, a teacher stood in front of a classroom and gave students knowledge. Now, in 21st Century learning, it’s about us learning together. We have kids here today who are building a robot to put toppings on a pizza automatically. They are the ones who will change the world. This facility them more tools to be ready to do that.”
The Eliot Innovation School is located on Commercial Street just over the North Washington Street Bridge from Charlestown. A ribbon cutting for the new school is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19 at 1 p.m.