Talk of a new high school

Posted

Could Warwick really see the construction of a brand-new high school in the near future?

It’s a conversation that, amidst the dreary fiscal reality that played out over the summer that nearly made school sports and after school activities a casualty of budget cuts, seemed wholly unfeasible – but now multiple sources have confirmed that such a conversation is actively occurring in Warwick.

Sources, including Superintendent Philip Thornton, confirmed that multiple “informal” meetings have taken place between school department administrators, members of the school committee, members of the Warwick City Council and Mayor Joseph Solomon regarding the possibility of constructing a new high school at the site of the current Pilgrim High School, which would be demolished to make room for new sports fields.

The plan, currently, is very much a hypothetical one. The school department is currently in the application process with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) for reimbursement of $80 million-worth of projects that would occur under a second bond proposal – separate from a $40 million bond that was approved by voters in November of 2018 and has funded critical improvement projects at certain schools throughout the past summer.

The school department would, in theory, need to amend its new bond request from RIDE, which was submitted in September – and then gain acceptance from the City Council – in order for the district to be eligible to receive funding reimbursement from the state, which would make or break any notion of new construction.

The city is eligible for at least 35 to 40 percent in reimbursement from the state on capital construction school projects, but that rate could max out at 52.5 percent with the fulfillment of certain incentives, which can encompass everything from the size of the school to the implementation of energy efficient components within the new building.

Thornton said on Monday that the necessary next step in determining whether the school would be seeking an amendment to the application with RIDE would be for the school committee to approve the hiring an educational consultant who would examine where a new school would make the most sense in Warwick, and what that school would look like in order to fulfill state requirements and maximize the reimbursement rate.

Thornton said that could happen as early as the committee’s next meeting on October 15 but as of now, no official steps have been taken towards a new school building.

“Nothing has moved forward,” Thornton clarified, but also added that, “I think there is an interest in fixing some of the current buildings along with exploring building new.”

City Council President Steve Merolla, whom sources confirmed has been privy to such recent conversations, confirmed that interest as well.

“At some point in time you reach the useful life expectancy of buildings where you're throwing good money after bad, because you can’t keep up with repairs to keep a building running,” he said during an interview on Friday. “Any time I've been asked about it, I've encouraged it.”

Merolla said the possibility of receiving half the money necessary for a new school from the state is a “unique opportunity” that would also possibly generate opportunities for new income – such as renting out new playing fields to outside entities. He also feels a new school building would serve as an economic catalyst for a city that could really use one.

“I think the community needs a shot in the arm,” he said.

Still, Merolla said there were “a lot of hurdles” to get through before any new construction would start, and that a detailed analysis would need to be performed prior to any votes in favor or against occurring.

“I've encouraged people to look at that and see what the numbers that come back are,” he said. “If we can get a 50 percent match on a new building, that should be a serious consideration for any municipality because the long term costs of repairing these buildings, I think some of them clearly have reached their useful life expectancy, and it doesn’t make sense to keep doing what we're doing.”

One source privy to the conversations told the Beacon that some initial estimates for the cost of a new school hovered around $180 million, but that could fluctuate. If the city received a 50 percent reimbursement rate on such a project, that would leave the city on the hook for $90 million to finance through long-term bonding. There’s no telling how, if this were to come to fruition, it would affect the district’s established plans to repair other aging buildings around Warwick.

According to Marcum LLP, which just completed a five-year financial projection of Warwick that will be broken down during a special meeting of the City Council finance committee on Wednesday evening, the city has a “green” (healthy) rating for long-term bond service debt – which as of FY18 hovers around 2.5 percent of overall expenditures within the city’s budget.

Solomon said he is interested in learning more about the feasibility of building a new high school. He said he is supportive of the idea.

Comments

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justanidiot

bild one big skul wit grades k thru 12. close down all da other skuls. you can fire lots and lots of teachers, aids, administrators and such and just hire some minders for the wharehouse of kids. it wood serve da purpose of what skuls do now, keep da kids off da streets until day become adults.

youse wants an edumacation fer your rug rats, send dem to private skul

Tuesday, October 1
Apollo

If you build a new one make it a huge city-wide school and cose the rest But to just build a new one the city can't afford that luxury.

Tuesday, October 1
OldButInformed

This “project” has GRAFT written all over it! Compare the realistic cost of modernizing and upgrading Pilgrim with that of the boondoggle recommended in this article. Are the taxpayers of Warwick stupid enough to fall for this obvious money pot for Solomon and his henchmen?

Tuesday, October 1
Robert

This year the Warwick government was going to eliminate sports from the schools, but now we are told that Pilgrim HD will be eliminated to build sports fields. This is absolutely insane! When will the citizenry wake up!?

Tuesday, October 1
warwick10

Have you been inside Pilgrim lately? Realistically--Pilgrim cannot be modernized or upgraded! Tear it down!

Wednesday, October 2
Ben Dover

You people hanging out at the cannabis factory on Jefferson Blvd.? The cost on the new East Providence high school is $190M.....Fix the academics and test scores...Aside from the best and brightest you are turning out functional illiterates, ill equipped for the work force or higher education...Fix that first...Lose the pipe dream...

Wednesday, October 2
Patient Man

Warwick & the rest of the Rhode Island residents are basically paying for all of the Fiscally distressed communities (urban core) new schools & upgrades. The city needs to quickly complete due diligence. Typically investing in education is the best return on tax dollars. Each RI community should be getting this done.

I would add, that the first 10% of each districts budget go into a separate account for maintenance & repairs. Let each Principal advocate every year for their schools needs. The School committee working with a facilities expert could prioritize each years maintenance budget.

Wednesday, October 2
OldButInformed

WARWICK10: Who’s your political Godfather? I’ve been in Pilgrim lately, a lot! For less than a quarter of what a new building will cost Pilgrim could be totally upgraded. Been in any of the elementary schools lately? They’re all a mess! The “new high school” plan is a money tree for the corrupt and incompetent City Council and their playmates.

Wednesday, October 2
warwick10

Yesterday, Oldbutinformed!

They're ALL a mess! Let's start with Pilgrim first!

Thursday, October 3
Apollo

10% patient man you're crazy. .5% may be.

Apparently people are too young to know how schools were back in the 40s and 50s. It wasn't the buildings that mattered it was the level of education they were receiving. A shiny building doesn't make an education, hard work, studying, and good teaching does. Put in some repairs, recruit volunters like Providence did. Come togeather as a community.

Thursday, October 3
Patient Man

Apollo,

0.5% for repairs & maintenance would be reckless. This is the kind of uninformed thinking that has got us into this situation. Put aside the first 10% of the schools budget so it can't be fungible. The other city departments should have similar plans. More money for fire trucks, garbage trucks etc. Protect the money so it can't be negotiated away. We shouldn't have our vehicles falling apart.

Friday, October 4
warwick10

The condition of the schools in the 50's and 60's much better than today. Students who have to learn in run-down school buildings tend to have lower test scores compared to students with access to better facilities. Pilgrim especially, with the physical problems recorded--including a lack of operating windows, low air quality, leaking roofs and water stains, dead and living crickets in the halls and classrooms, mice droppings, dirty class rooms/bathrooms.. unappealing parking lot, fields, landscaping...

AND teachers too, are impacted by the quality of their working environment!

A new Pilgrim High School would benefit both teachers and students!

Friday, October 4
OldButInformed

It would appear that WARWICK10 is somewhere in the kickback stream.

Tuesday, October 8
warwick10

Just for the kids, OldButInformed!

Tuesday, October 8
Apollo

warwick 10 obviously is a TEACHER

Tuesday, October 8
Apollo

https://turnto10.com/i-team/schools-in-crisis/how-rhode-island-teacher-salaries-compare-and-whos-making-six-figures

Wednesday, October 9
Happy

I am 100% behind building a new High School, and now!

First, look at the overall conditions of ALL facilities in Warwick, 75% of their life expectancy! Building it now the efficient way we can get grants covering about half of the cost! Also, look at all the additional money that Gina is now funneling into Providence to help her friend Elorza. Where is the additional money from the state for US?

Looking at the article that Apollo quoted, teachers are working second jobs to make ends meet. That takes precious time away from their primary responsibility, teaching!

BUILD THE SCHOOL BEFORE ANYMORE OF OUR TAX DOLLARS GET FUNNELED INTO UNION COLA'S AND HEALTHCARE BENEFITS FOR THOSE THAT RETIRE IN THEIR 40'S and 50'S, THATS THE RIDICULUS PART! PAYING THEM FOR MORE YEARS THAN THEY EVEN WORKED!

Wednesday, October 9
WarwickfortheKids

The numbers and location being thrown around are clearly focused on building a new high school for half of our city's high school population - while the two high school building needs are very comparable. East Providence's new high school being constructed now is estimated at $190 million for a capacity of 1600 students. So the estimate being thrown around by leadership is what - a high school at around 1400-1500 capacity? Or does the city and school leadership honestly believe a 3000+ capacity high school will cost $180 million? (many that's why we have constant financial misinformation?) Or do they have no intention of a city wide high school - only a replacement for one of our two crumbling high schools and are being disingenuous?

We need an equitable/affordable solution for all students - and one half of the city will never sit back and finance the other half while their own children continue to suffer with substandard buildings - nor would they ever vote for any leader that would go along with this proposal. Don't forget the SMMA assessment and the RIDE Schoolhouse assessments estimated IMMEDIATE needs to bring buildings up to SATISFACTORY conditions were over $150 million almost five years ago - Pilgrim and Toll Gate had very similar needs - and Toll Gate was just slammed in their accreditation on the lack of althetic fields on campus (as TG and Winman parents have to leave work daily to drive their children to their "home" fields at the air quality monitored airport and the unsealed former dump. One of the options from SMMA was to build one new high school for the city - and it was immediately dismissed by school leadership as being so financially impossible, it should not even be discussed. Many disagreed and felt it should be explored - five years ago and millions later. I am extremely disappointed in the vagueness of these discussions, if leadership wants real solutions, they need to be honest about their intentions - two new high schools or one "super high school" would cost much more - in the range of $300-400 million by the time its done. Let's be open about the district wide needs, principled around equity, and honest about costs and affordability. I am not at all opposed to building one city wide or two high schools, but only within the context of all our city needs and a long range financial plan. And most importantly, with a #1 guiding principle of EQUITY across our city and for all our children.

Wednesday, October 9
WarwickfortheKids

https://www.lowellsun.com/2019/02/07/new-lowell-high-estimated-to-cost-343m/ (3000 students)

https://www.asumag.com/new-construction/east-providence-breaks-ground-190-million-high-school (1600 Students)

https://www.heraldnews.com/news/20171122/fall-river-steps-closer-to-new-260-million-durfee (2100 students)

Wednesday, October 9
Apollo

Happy, they work second jobs why? Making 75 to 100,000+ a year and it's not enough? Sounds like they aren't living within their means. Having summers off I'd work to keep busy also.

Wednesday, October 9
warwick10

Apollo,

not a teacher! But as a parent and member of the PTA, the Warwick schools are in rough condition... too far gone for repairs. Warwick needs a new high school!

Although I agree with you on some level, the schools have already endured several rounds of budget cuts. The schools aren't to blame for the financial mess the city is facing, and unacceptable to blame them for the city's budget shortfall.

Thursday, October 10
Happy

WarwickfortheKids,

There is no such thing as "equity" in todays day and age when it comes to tax dollars, period!

Putting a plan on the table to satisify "all" of Warwick is dead before it even starts and would kill any chance of any new school being built! In your case, although it would help all of Warwick is just not financially feasible. That is leaving tax money to be negotiated to the unions.

If they go with one new school and use tax and grant money that will leave less money to negotiate for crazy health care for life, outrageous pension money for life and the rest of the garbage the Unions demand because the money is there. I don't get that kind of money and benefits in the private sector, do you?

Build the school, take the low hanging fruit while you can and then firm up a plan for school #2 and keep pushing that plan.

Sunday, October 13