Redding’s John Read Middle School Celebrates Grand Opening of Project C.O.O.L

Redding’s John Read Middle School Celebrates Grand Opening of Project C.O.O.L

John Read Middle School will hold a Grand Opening Ceremony for Project C.O.O.L on Tuesday, October 4th at 9:30 am at the school grounds, located at 486 Redding Road, Redding, CT.  

Sponsored in part by the JRMS PTA, the vision for Project Cool was to create an outdoor classroom with amphitheater style seating for 50 students along with a small pavilion that can be used by teachers for instructional purposes as well as for student performances.  

Aptly named, the primary vision of Project C.O.O.L (Creating an Oasis for Outdoor Learning) was to provide an open-air learning venue that would blend in with the natural environment surrounding the school. “A key goal would be to provide the students an opportunity to ‘get closer’ to nature and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us in Redding while also promoting greater understanding of and appreciation for the environment and local wildlife,” says PTA President Darrell Bradford, who oversaw the construction of the project from concept to finish. 

“Learning outside provides a healthy change of pace from the classroom that increases students' mental and social health,“ says ER9 School Superintendent, Dr. Jason McKinnon. “Research in outdoor education notes that children benefit from an enhanced attitude towards school, improved attention, and even increases in creativity. Project Cool demonstrates the strong partnerships between the school and community partners, like our PTA”.

“The entire JRMS community is thankful for this gift provided by the JRMS PTA and the entire Redding community,” says Jennifer Demarais, Principal at John Read.  “I can't wait to listen to student orators debate and recite poems. Our art teacher, Bonnie Spies, plans to have groups of students create land art exhibits in the area. Student musicians now have a new performance space. John Read students have often combined learning with the outdoors during Project Adventure and science classes. This beautiful new venue opens many more opportunities for our students to dream, create, and innovate."

The idea of Project COOL was birthed in 2019 from results of a PTA survey to parents, students, teachers and administrators that asked what they liked and disliked about the outdoor space and facilities at JRMS and what they felt they needed. The survey results showed a great interest by all parties for an outdoor learning space. 

In 2020, the COVID pandemic made this project a top priority and highlighted the need for this project.  “We felt that an oasis was truly what the school needed most when traditional classroom learning in schools across America were forced to close their doors and migrate to a distance learning mode,” says Bradford. 

By the time the pandemic struck in 2020, a Site Selection Committee had already been formed and was looking at various locations on the school property. The PTA successfully raised approximately $35,000 and then initiated the permitting process. The group selected a civil engineer (Peak Engineers of Georgetown); a contractor (Caraluzzi & Assoc.); and a supplier for the pavilion.

Planning and engineering took nearly a year and, finally, on October 5, 2021, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. For a variety of reasons (weather delays, the skyrocketing cost of labor and materials in the post-pandemic environment, etc) it became evident that additional funding would be needed to complete the project.

In April, 2022, the PTA submitted an grant application for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act, requesting $35,000 to finish the project. The application was reviewed by the ARPA Working Group and recommended to the Board of Selectmen. The requested grant was approved by voters at a Town Meeting held on June 21, 2022. Construction is now complete, and a Certificate of Occupancy is expected shortly.

For more information, contact Darrell Bradford at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 203-648-7148.


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