Raimondo: School fix could top $2 billion

Governor presses for funding of statewide initiative to update and upgrade schools statewide; Bristol Warren deficiencies top $49 million

EastBayRI.com ·

Rhode Island’s schools are old and outdated, cramped and inadequate — and it will cost billions to bring them into the 21st century.

That was the word Wednesday from Gov. Gina Raimondo, who went to the Kickemuit Middle School in Warren to announce the results of an “alarming” statewide school infrastructure study. The governor’s unveiling of the Rhode Island Schoolhouse Study, a look into the finances behind repairing and updating the state’s aging educational facilities, was the kickoff to what she hopes will be a change in the way Rhode Island prioritizes its educational facilities.

“Frankly, the results are pretty alarming,” she said.

“The average school facility is well beyond its expected life. This didn’t happen overnight, and we’re not going to fix it overnight. But our kids deserve it. Our teachers deserve it. And our economy deserves it.”

While the report estimates it will cost $2.2 billion to bring all of the state’s schools up to “ideal operational condition,” she warned that just to bring schools to the point where they are “warm, safe and dry,” Rhode Islanders will have to commit to more than $627 million in spending.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Gov. Raimondo signed papers creating a task force to look into the funding issue in the coming months. There were no answers Wednesday as to where the state will get the money, but Gov. Raimondo said it must be found:
“We have a chance right now as Rhode Islanders to make a once in a generation investment in our schools,” she said. “We also need a new approach … to financing. We’re all going to have to come together to fix this, and cities and towns are going to have to do their part.”

What about Bristol Warren?
The problem of facility decay is not limited to inner city and urban schools, she said, and the study bears that out here in Bristol Warren. According to the schoolhouse report, the district would require $49.471 million in spending to correct infrastructural deficiencies at its six schools, not including the cost of any new construction.

Further, replacing all the district’s schools with modern buildings would cost approximately $164.18 million, the study notes. Broken down by school, deficiency repair costs are:

* Mt. Hope High School: $18.15 million.
* Kickemuit Middle School: $14.77 million
* Hugh Cole School: $6.46 million
* Guiteras School: $4.1 million
* Colt Andrews: $3.07 million
* Rockwell School: $2.92 million

What’s next?
Gov. Raimondo’s creation of the Rhode Island School Buildings Task Force Wednesday is the start of what officials believe will be three to four months of brainstorming on ways to finance the repair and update of schools statewide.

“We hope to have (an answer) by December so we can get something done this coming year,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, a Bristol Warren graduate.

“It’s going to require everyone stepping up.”

“Our schools are the foundation of a strong economy. It is absolutely true that having a school building that is not in good condition not only impacts the health and safety of students but also their morale and their excitement to come in and learn. Rhode Island has put up with subpar school buildings for too long. We have to act now.”

Read the report

Results of the Rhode Island Schoolhouses Report are available at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, www.ride.ri.gov.

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