2017-10-12 / Front Page

RI Schools Repairs Could Cost $2 Billion

By Bob Rulli

A report assessing the condition of schools throughout Rhode Island maintains that it would cost more than $2 billion to bring all of the state’s K-12 schools to “ideal” condition, including more than $600 million in construction costs to “keep students and teachers warm, safe and dry in their classrooms.”

The report was prepared by Jacobs Engineering, a Pasadena Cal. firm and Cooperative Strategies, which specializes in consulting services to the education sector. Last year, the School Building Authority at the Rhode Island Department of Education hired the firm to conduct a statewide facility condition assessment and master plan for every public K-12 school in the state.

Newport's three public schools, Pell Elementary, Thompson Middle and Rogers High School, total 422,565 square feet. The report suggested that it would immediately cost $42.4 million to repair the current deficiencies in the three schools, which, it said, are mainly mechanical and in the buildings’ exteriors.

It identified Rogers High as having an immediate need of $37.9 million and a "Combined Five-Year Need" that would cost $51.4 million. The report looked at current enrollment numbers, as well as what is referred to as "Aspirational Capacity,” which would be the enrollment if growth projection was accurate. It also considered replacement and new construction costs versus the cost of repairs and upgrades.

In the case of the 205,000-square-foot Rogers High, the report states that total replacement cost would be $73.8 million, or $350 per-square-foot, based on the current enrollment of 590 students. According to a BuildingJournal.com cost calculator, construction of a 205,000-square-foot high school with a gym, using prevailing wages and factoring in typical construction costs including overhead, profit and bond costs, will total $39.1 million, or $190 per-square-foot.

The 20th annual School Construction Report that was published in February 2015 by School Planning & Management, the national publication for professionals serving the K-12 education market, contained a comparison of school construction costs across the country. Using data from 2014, it said that school construction costs were rising, but the median cost of construction was well below what is listed in the state's report.

In determining repair costs, the state's report said that new construction costs were not part of the calculation.

Newport School Committee Chairman David Hanos at the Oct. 10 committee meeting told the committee members that a new facilities report from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) indicates that Rogers High School is one of the top ten worst school facilities in Rhode Island.

Gov. Gina Raimondo, State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Ken Wagner, will hold public forums throughout the state to get the public’s input on the report. Newport will host a forum on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. at Rogers High School, with Raimondo, Magaziner and the state school construction board scheduled to be in attendance.

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