Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 06-13-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | JUNE 13-19, 2019 NORTH SMITHFIELD 21 "We were just two classrooms to a unit, so you didn't have to worry about hall passes, you didn't have to worry about hall traffic, you didn't have to worry about hall noise, and every time the kids left the building, they got a bit of fresh air and it woke them up and invigorated us," she said. At the time, students attended Halliwell through the 8th grade, and Biron recalled Principal Paul Joyce, who later went on to serve as super- intendent of schools, playing music for the students at a graduation dance. Early photos of the campus show a young tree, later the meeting place of generations of North Smithfield students, standing alone in the field beside the school. The school was named in honor of Dr. Harry L. Halliwell, who two years earlier had succumbed to bulbar polio at age 33 while treating patients dur- ing the polio outbreaks of the 1950s. Halliwell, who had served as school physician in North Smithfield, was the pediatrician of many families in north- ern Rhode Island and is said to have traveled for many days almost without rest treating patients in the weeks prior to his own death. His widow, Obiella Halliwell, was honored follow- ing the dedication ceremony, which took place on Nov. 17, 1957. Over the years, the school contin- ued to serve as a gathering place for students and families who developed close relationships with teachers and staff. Robin Maloney, who attended Halliwell during the 1970s, said she particularly enjoyed the classes of Mrs. Michelina Branconnier, who inspired her to go into teaching. She also recalled the after-school antics of friends as they rode bikes down the Halliwell driveway and sleds into the athletic fields on "suicide hill." "I don't know how we didn't get killed, we were flying down that hill. That was the thing to do," she said. Eugene Peloquin, who served as principal from 1972 to 1989, has quite different memories of the Halliwell campus in winter. During the Blizzard of '78, he and other school adminis- trators hunkered down on Monday morning, watching as school cancella- tions poured in from around the state. When they finally made the call for dismissal, they crossed their fingers and prayed the buses would make it up the long driveway to Victory Highway. "They did a tremendous job. None of them got stuck. At some schools in Rhode Island, about 3,000 kids got stuck at the schools," he recalled. While winter at Halliwell was always an adventure, one that usu- ally involved dozens of pairs of boots in every classroom, summer on the campus offered a unique experience close to nature. Peloquin recalled one instance when a female box turtle came up from the brook to lay her eggs in the sand of the playground. After alerting teachers, students brought their chairs outside and spent an entire class period sitting silently around the playground watching the turtle build her nest. "It was the best science/nature lesson we've ever had. How many principals across the country can say that?" he said. Recollections of Halliwell include fond memories of the many individu- als who kept the school running over the years. In addition to administra- tors and classroom teachers, they include longtime music teacher Michael Boday, art teacher Burl Dawson, who was known to decorate that school's shrubbery like cupcakes in honor of students' birthdays, and Margaret Fay, who worked in the office for over 25 years. "They used to call her secretary. Well, that's a misnomer. She ran the school," said Peloquin. While the school holds a special place in many families' hearts, a lack of maintenance and changing educational standards have landed the buildings on a projected closure list for at least 10 years, according to Supt. Michael St. Jean. In 2017, a study commissioned by the Rhode Island Department of Education estimated the facility would require more than $11 million in immediate repairs and projected five-year mainte- nance in order to continue operating. Earlier this year, district administra- tors moved forward with a plan to add four classrooms on to North Smithfield Elementary School to allow Halliwell to close, a project funded by a $4 million school buildings bond approved by voters in 2014. "There's something very soulful and spiritual about the location, but to bring it back to where it should be is cost prohibitive," said St. Jean. "And then there are different sensibilities today than there were back then as far as safety and security." In the fall, district 4th-graders will continue in the new classrooms at NSES, while 5th- graders will move to North Smithfield Middle School. NSES Principal Jennifer Daigneault said teachers are working to transition incoming 5th-graders to the middle school, as well as welcome 4th grade teachers to the new setting. "We're all very excited about it," she said. "Here at NSES, I think we've HALLIWELL From Page One See SCHOOL, Page 23 A photo that hangs in the main office of HALLIWELL MEMORIAL SCHOOL shows the school as it looked when it opened in 1957. Students and commu- nity members, including for- mer Principal EUGENE PELOQUIN, second from left, stand in front of a school sign refurbished by the local Kiwanis Club in November 1986.

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