The Town Council is on board with preliminary plans from the schools to examine their buildings and grounds.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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TOWN COUNCIL OKAYS FIRST STEP IN
POTENTIAL SCHOOL BUILDING-GROUNDS UPGRADES
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (SEPT. 7, 2021) – The Town Council is officially on board with early plans from the schools to pursue improvements to their buildings and grounds.
At a meeting tonight in Town Hall, local leaders agreed to support a “Letter of Intent” from the schools to submit a Stage 1 application to the Rhode Island Department of Education.
The move came after a Town-school summit last week, where education leaders lobbied for the council’s support, especially when Middletown was in line for at least a 35 percent reimbursement from the state and potentially more than 50 percent for any work.
Council members reminded people the move tonight committed the Town to no plans or bonds long term. Rather, they said it should be seen as the first step of a lengthy public process to determine the future of the school buildings, which are on average more than 61 years old.
“This is nonbinding…” council President Paul M. Rodrigues said. “This just allows us to go to the state and say ‘We’re interested.’”
Earlier in the evening, the School Committee okayed a similar intent letter, which are expected to be submitted to the state by Sept. 15. From there, it will be up to the schools to file a much more detailed Phase 2 package with the state in February. That would include a set of plans from the schools about specifically what was needed. From there, if the will was there with the council and community, a bond would go on the November 2022 ballot before voters.
Over the past decade plus, there’s been no shortage of talk in Middletown about what to do with the school buildings.
Facing older buildings and calls from some for better 21st century learning spaces, the Town has investigated several options. Through those processes, the Town always comes back to the “fix what we have model,” where the existing buildings are repaired and renovated instead of building new.
Last week, Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger said based on what’s been discussed so far, the schools wouldn’t be straying from that proven model and no new buildings were being considered. Although it was still early in the process, she said some concepts discussed include:
- Creating new “Learning Centers” in each of the four schools.
- Remodeling science labs at Middletown High and Gaudet Middle schools.
- Renovating the library at Middletown High.
- Adding space for an additional career pathway program at Middletown High.
Previously, local voters have been supportive of improving the schools the Town already has. In November 2016, voters okayed a $10 million bond to do security and building improvement work. That included everything from new roofs on each of the schools to secure entrances to new boilers at Forest Avenue School.
The school Building Committee is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 15 at 3:30 p.m. in the Oliphant administration building for another “Visioning Session” to discuss the school buildings. To reserve a spot, call (401) 849-2122 or message firstname.lastname@example.org via email.