Rhode Island's $250M School Construction Bond Hailed by State Treasurer

Wed May 12, 2021 - Northeast Edition
Providence Journal

In 2007, the Rhode Island Department of Education's Jacobs Recommendations for Consideration report concluded that the state's schools faced a tidal wave of need.

Science labs were woefully outdated, roofs leaked, pipes burst, and, at one Newport high school, mice dropped from the ceiling.

Just a year later, voters approved a $250 million general obligation bond, the largest in state history, to address decades of neglect.

According to the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner recently toured the new $189.5 million East Providence High School to tout the progress that has been made in retooling the state's school buildings.

It is the first new high school built in the state in 20 years.

But, since the 2018 bond referendum, more than 160 school buildings have been repaired or replaced. Also, in two years' time, more than $600 million in school construction projects have been funded.

Magaziner told the newspaper he hopes Rhode Island voters will approve a second $250-million bond in 2022.

"East Providence High School is a great example of what can be done," he said in front of the 304,000-sq. ft., four-story building, which is set to open in September.

The difference between the new school and the existing, 70-year-old building adjacent to it, is stark. The latter looks every bit its age.

During a tour four years ago, East Providence Schools Superintendent Kathryn Crowley quoted an electrical engineer when she told the Providence newspaper "we're operating on a wing and a prayer."

One science lab at the old high school serves 1,550 students. The pool has been emptied for six years and beneath the gym, some of the concrete support beams are crumbling. She also noted that steam pipes carrying heat to the classrooms were corroded and to reach them, repair crews must squeeze through a crawlspace littered with asbestos.

Following is a sampling of what else the 2018 bond money bought Rhode Island's school infrastructure, according to the Journal:

  • Newport's Rogers High School was recently judged among the worst school buildings in the state. Last winter, local voters approved a $106.3 million bond to build a new high school and an addition to Pell Elementary School. Now, the state has the funds to cover more than half of the construction costs,
  • Pawtucket is currently rebuilding two elementary schools and renovating its two high schools. When it's open, the Winters Elementary School will feature sinks in every classroom for science experiments, an open ceiling so students can see how the building works, wi-fi and wireless speakers in the classrooms and a water filtration garden,
  • Smithfield's $45 million plan calls for building a new combined school to serve students from both the Winsor and McCabe elementary schools, renovating the Old County Road School, and expanding the McCabe building. Because the state now offers bonuses to school districts for consolidating their schools and increasing energy efficiency, Smithfield will receive an additional $16.7 million in state funding.

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