Forest Avenue School Bears


CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 712-2221 or


MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AUGUST 19, 2021)  The Learning Center at Forest Avenue School is evolving.

Recently, Principal Lisa Birkett announced that only kindergarten classes would be calling the acclaimed center home. Previously, kindergarten and first grade teachers worked together in the Learning Center wing, which is on the southern end of the building closest to the school’s main playground.

The move, she said, would help create key synergies among classrooms and the youngest students at the elementary school, something that research is showing is critically important.

“More than ever before, we’re seeing that our youngest students, our kindergarteners, benefit most from the opportunities provided through the Learning Center,” Birkett said. “From everything I’ve seen and heard, outstanding work took place day after day in the Learning Academy and we’re looking to build on those successes.”

At the same time, Birkett said the shift would help build important connections between students at other grade levels throughout the school. The first day of school is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 8.

“I know I’ve heard a lot of excitement from teachers about the possibilities this creates throughout the building,” Birkett said.  “We’re really, really excited about this school year and what we’re going to be doing here at Forest Avenue. This is a very dynamic place and one that’s filled with absolutely outstanding teachers, no matter what classroom space they use.”

When the Learning Center opened in 2008, it was hailed as a model for how education should be in the 21st century. 

For one, instead of an expensive new building, the Learning Center was created carving existing space in Forest Avenue by School Department maintenance staff. It also allowed 

teachers and staff to work together easier in its open, inviting space instead of the traditional “cells and bells” model employed in most schools.

The concepted was saluted as a model for public education and visitors from across the world toured the school to see if the examples provided at Forest Avenue could apply to their schools back home.

During a recent Town Council meeting, local leaders spoke with pride about how the Rhode Island Department of Education uses the Learning throughout the building as an example of creative measures School Districts can take to reuse existing spaces.

The council is scheduled to sit down with the school Building Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall to see if there are similar possibilities.

Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger said none of that good work goes away by making the Learning Center for kindergartners.

“We’re constantly looking at everything in our district, from our curriculum to our classroom spaces,” Kraeger said. “This just makes sense and will allow much more grade level collaboration across each of our classrooms and every kindergartener will benefit from this new arrangement, not just some. 

“The success of the Learning Center is a real testament to our outstanding teachers who made it a warm, welcoming educational environment for the hundreds, really more than a thousand students who’ve passed through that space since it first opened.

“The Learning Center shows what we can do when we work together as educators and push the bounds. And I want to personally thank each and every one of our teachers at Forest Avenue for their work every day to improve the lives of our students and efforts to make this change a seamless one.”