To the Editor:
As a father, a Rogers High School graduate, a friend of students, teachers, and lifelong learners, and a Third Ward City Council candidate, I need to voice an official opinion on the pending school bond.
In 2018, 84.1 percent of Newporters supported the successful Rhode Island School Infrastructure Bond, which established a $250 million fund for school renovation and construction projects throughout the state.
To gain access to these funds, a municipality needs to follow an 18-month process established by the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE), including public meetings, demographic studies, facility assessments and comprehensive reports. Newport followed this process and has been approved for a new state-of-the-art Rogers High School and Career and Technical Education facility. In November, our community has the opportunity to pass a municipal bond to move this project forward. Here are the reasons why I am in favor.
As it currently stands, Rogers is one of the worst high school buildings in Rhode Island. Renovations of the existing building are estimated to cost $76 million and wouldn’t make changes to the antiquated building layout and design. Additionally, RIDE has explicitly told Newport that it will not fund the cost of renovations.
Newport will recoup 52.5 percent of the cost of a new school from the state, thanks to the statewide bond mentioned before. This will alleviate a large amount of the tax burden on our community and provide us with a brand new high school, all at roughly the same cost of maintaining the old one for the next five years.
Also, it should be noted that as a result of the COVID pandemic our state will need a few years to recover financially. This would suggest that a future state school infrastructure bond is unlikely, meaning we should take advantage of the current opportunity.
Probably most importantly, public education creates a critical foundation for our children’s future. The connection between educational facilities and student achievement is well established. At RIDE’s May 27, 2020 meeting, they recognized that Rogers has “outdated systems that are not aligned with the district’s educational program vision. The new high school will be a 165,783-squarefoot comprehensive facility that blends both academics and vocational programs into a 21st century learning environment.” The plans for a new Rogers High School and the integrated curriculum will help set our children on a path to success, but also incentivize businesses and families to move here and contribute to our year-round economy.
Lastly, and this is key, regionalization will never be off the table. Investing in a new school now only provides Newport with the opportunity to leverage our successes and our community when our neighbors find themselves in a similar situation. Regionalization has been discussed for decades with no success, so why would we expect a different response if we do not pass the bond?
I stand behind investing in Newport and its education as a solution to our community needs.