The Town Council formally approves putting school regionalization with Newport and a $235 million bond on the Election Day ballot, which if approved will cost voters 20 cents on the dollar thanks to state reimbursements.
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ELECTION DAY BALLOT SHAPING UP
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AUGUST 1, 2022) – The Election Day ballot got much clearer Monday night.
Following months of discussion, the Town Council voted from Town Hall to formally place questions on the Nov. 8 ballot seeking approval for school regionalization with Newport and a $235 million bond to build three new schools in Middletown.
Town officials said with the state Department of Education paying at least 80 cents of every dollar for the construction of the new schools, it was too good of an opportunity for the community to pass up.
Council President Paul M. Rodrigues said even though there were questions about regionalization, the time was now to move forward with both ballot questions because they were what was right for Middletown — and more importantly its students.
“(We’re looking at) $90 million and that’s Band-Aids,” Rodrigues said. “That’s basically little attention to the two elementary schools and the rest of the money was being put towards the high school, the majority of it, and the middle school, and we’re still ending up with 70 year old buildings.”
Council Vice President Thomas P. Welch III and Councilman Christopher Logan agreed, saying the “Band-Aid” approach to fixing the schools wouldn’t work anymore because there were too many large problems that needed to be addressed.
“This new proposal gets us brand new buildings, so more than a bold move, it’s a lot less money to our taxpayers and it’s a significant improvement at less cost…” Logan said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think anybody felt comfortable throwing $90 million at Band-Aids for buildings that are dying. This is much better.”
“Certainly, the buildings are more complex than (ever before),” Welch said. “One of the problems is that under walkways where the heating pipes are, those pipes have pinholes in them from water running over them for 50 or 60 years. There’s nothing that maintenance could do about that. That problem, you can’t replace the pipes in the entire school and it’s only going to continue.”
Since mid-March, much of the town’s attention has been focused hammering out the details about the proposed regionalization of schools with Newport.
Looking to improve the overall quality of education for every student in both communities, Middletown and Newport officials have been meeting regularly to firm up as many details as possible.
At an informational forum late last month, consultants showed there were a number of ways to save money and provide more opportunities for students. One of the big costs savings was eliminating duplication on the administrative level, something that would allow both communities to push more money into each classroom.
In order for regionalization to be approved, voters in Middletown and Newport must okay ballot questions on Election Day, Nov. 8. Middletown voters are also being asked to okay a $235 million bond to building a new middle-high school and combined elementary school and early education center. That’s because RIDE is reimbursing Middletown at 80.5 cents on every dollar spent of the new schools, far higher than its usual 35 percent.
Newport is also in line to take advantage of this deal, with $50 million pledged from RIDE for the Rogers High School construction work.
As part of an exciting remake of the Middletown schools, consultants spelled out a number possibilities. Natural lighting, open and inviting learning spaces, safe, secure and state-of-the-art 21st century facilities were among the items that led that list.
Consultant designs show the new combined high school-middle school would be built at the former Starlight Drive-In property now multi-use fields at 1225 Aquidneck Ave. next to Gaudet Middle School.
Students in grades six through eight would have classes in one part of the building completely separate from the high school grades nine through 12. Initial planning showed the building would share a 500-600 seat auditorium, cafeteria and library media center. Importantly, middle and high school students would not use those spaces together.
The combined elementary school is planned in the existing footprint of Middletown High at 120 Valley Road. Eventually, both Aquidneck and Forest Avenue elementary schools would close after the new combined elementary school was complete. A pre-kindergarten center for Middletown youngsters will be built on the new elementary school campus too, creating a synergy around early childhood education.
The way the school construction project is phased, temporary trailers would not be needed. Construction on the combined high school-middle school would come first, with students staying in the existing buildings until work wrapped up there. Then, work would begin at the Valley Road campus for the new elementary school, with the Aquidneck and Forest Avenue schools staying in service until they were no longer needed.
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/5419/NYCU-Ballot-Questions