Governor Dan McKee on Tuesday was joined by Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, Superintendent Javier Montañez, and students and staff at Providence’s Hope High School in front its auditorium to highlight historic investments in 21st century school facilities statewide. Officials underscored the positive impact of the 2018 $250 million statewide school construction bond and the importance of continued investments; released the School Building Authority’s (SBA) “Rhode to Excellence” report which details progress made in modernizing and upgrading Providence Public Schools; and announced that the State will launch a Request for Proposal for the next statewide facility condition assessment.
“Every Rhode Island student deserves to learn in a modern, safe, and welcoming school that prepares them to be competitive and succeed in the 21st century,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We have made historic investments in school buildings, creating jobs and improving students learning environments — we want to make sure we continue the momentum. The budget I signed includes an additional $300 million to make needed upgrades and build new schools throughout the state because we know there is great need, and we are laser focused on continuing to transform schools to inspire and support students and staff.”
With Hope High School’s historic auditorium, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations as the backdrop, leaders underscored numerous school constructions projects across the Ocean State made possible with the 2018 state bond. As documented the SBA’s Renewing the Dream report released in February, the State and local municipalities have made an unprecedented commitment to school construction and community development. Under the SBA’s “Newer and Fewer” strategy which incentivizes facility improvements that enhance educational offerings by prioritizing projects that improve school utilization and address programmatic need, the state has supported transformational work statewide. Notable projects completed or underway this year include:
– The completion of Winters Elementary School in Pawtucket.
– A major addition at Claiborne Pell Elementary School in Newport.
– New schools under construction including Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Baldwin Elementary School in Pawtucket, Rogers High Schools in Newport, and a new elementary school in Johnston.
– Other major renovations throughout the state include significant efforts in Cumberland, East Providence, Lincoln, Cranston, Portsmouth and Achievement First.
“Our children will rise to the opportunities we give them. This investment ensures that schools in every single community of our state will get much-needed equipment upgrades and, in turn, give our kids the tools they need to succeed,” said Lieutenant Governor Matos. “Especially in career and technical education classrooms, where, will be able to learn in-demand job skills with the state-of-the-art tools that professionals are using right now, this program will make a major difference.”
The 2017 Jacobs school assessment report identified that the five-year need for all school buildings to be improved to an aspirational condition was estimated at more than $3 billion, including $2.2 billion in facility deficiency costs and nearly $800 million in identified five-year life cycle costs. The 2018 statewide bond marked a substantial investment in meeting school needs across the state, and question 2 which proposes an additional $250 million statewide bond up for voter consideration on November 8, if passed will offer additional resources to ensure more communities see drastic improvement and new schools. The McKee Administration will also be issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct another statewide facility assessment report.
“Since we launched the state school construction program, thousands more Rhode Island students have been able to attend schools that are safe, warm, dry, and equipped for 21st-century learning,” said General Treasurer Magaziner. “Over the last four years, we have invested more than $2.2 billion to transform over 200 schools across nearly every community in the state into 21st century learning spaces benefitting more than 100,000 Rhode Island students annually. Despite this progress, however, the work is not yet done. I encourage voters across the state to continue this historic investment in Rhode Island students by approving the $250 million school construction bond on the ballot this year.”
In addition to the statewide referendum, cities and towns across the state are prioritizing school buildings with over $1.3 billion on local ballots for new schools. These local referendums propose to support potential new high schools in Warwick, Pawtucket and Middletown, a new Martin Middle School in East Providence, and new elementary schools in North Providence, Westerly, and Middletown.
Recognizing the needs of communities, the SBA in recent years has announced several initiatives focusing on providing additional resources and supports with particular focus on ensuring equity. The Facility Equity Initiative, first announced in October 2021, initially provided funding to the five districts with the highest reimbursement rates: Central Falls, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Providence and West Warwick. These districts received nearly $13.4 million. To follow up the success, the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget included $50 million in Pay-As-You-Go funding with $30 million being used for a second round of the FEI announced this past September. Since the beginning of 2022, RIDE has awarded $50 million in funding towards creating facility equity between Rhode Island students.
“Across the state we are tearing down low expectations and making significant progress in our mission to provide all students with the 21st century facilities they deserve and can thrive in,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “Brick by brick, we are transforming outdated schools of the past to ensure Rhode Island students learn, grow, and gain 21st century skills to be competitive and succeed in college or career. While we can celebrate the transformation our schools have undergone in recent years, we know that there is still considerable need, and we urge our community members to support future investment opportunities.”
In early October, RIDE also announced a $15 million 21st Century Technology and Equipment Fund during a special event at Stephen Olney Elementary School in North Providence which will provide innovative technology and equipment that fosters a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) project-based learning approach and career and technical education (CTE) pathways to ensure all students have access to high-quality learning spaces. RIDE also launched a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Incubator Program – a cross-government collaboration that helps prepare high school students for entrepreneurial opportunities after high school, specifically focused on the trades and minority-owned businesses. Amid a push by the McKee administration to ensure that Rhode Island not only meets but surpasses its obligation to contract with MBEs for 10% of its procurement and construction projects, this program will create a pipeline of future MBEs across the state. Preliminary data from FY22 reveals that the state’s MBE participation rate has grown to 15.3% — more than 5 percentage points higher than the mandated rate.
In Providence Public Schools, which are currently under state intervention, addressing school facility needs has long been identified as a top priority for students, families, staff, and various stakeholders. With the funding of previously approved bonds and state support, ground has been broken at Spaziano Elementary, D’Abate Elementary, the former Windmill School Elementary – now the Narducci Learning Center, and Classical High School this year. Hope High School’s Auditorium is expected to open later in the year. Various case studies detailing ongoing and upcoming school improvements in Providence Public Schools are within the newly released SBA’s “Rhode to Excellence” report, which was shared with attendees at the event.
“Modern learning spaces are critical for the success of our students and staff as we work towards our community’s Turnaround Action Plan for Providence Public Schools,” said Superintendent Montañez. “It’s inspiring to see a new era of investment in our buildings. Schools across our district are starting new chapters with much-needed construction projects, and soon you’re going to see a whole new story unfold in Providence.”
On November 8, voters in Providence will consider question 4 which proposes a $125 million bond in addition to the $250 million statewide bond. If passed, PPSD will undergo a $500 million facility improvement plan over the next six years, marking an unprecedented level of investment in Providence school buildings.
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