Letter to the Editor: Please join me in supporting the Middletown school bond

The upcoming school bond vote is very important to our youth, our teachers, and our community. It comes with a big price tag. In order to make an informed decision whether or not to support the project, there is a lot of information to wrap your head around. It is also imperative to understand what happens if we as a community choose not to move forward with a new middle/high school.

The Town of Middletown website has all the facts, figures, design proposals, research and more to educate voters about history of our schools and the vision going forward. In the following paragraphs I will give you my take on the situation.

Our schools average 60 years old – some will say that’s not an unreasonable age for a house – why not just fix what we have. Our halls of identical cement classrooms do not create the best learning environment; our buildings lack the ability to provide fresh air, controllable heating and cooling; the antiquated and inadequate electrical infrastructure prohibits the use of new technology; the capacity of our buildings to provide safety for our students is subpar at best. Addressing the issues above is costly, disruptive, and inefficient.

If we do any major renovation (add bigger workspaces for groups to work together, retrofit existing buildings with new heating or air-conditioning infrastructure, upgrade the electrical systems, etc.) we will be held to the current standards from the RI Dept of Education. There are rules about classroom sizes, fire code regulations, safety and accessibility requirements – the list goes on. Opening the structure (walls, floors) will require asbestos abatement. We are only able to continue today because we are grandfathered in. These types of projects are extensive and cannot be completed during summer vacation which means moving students – disturbing to say the least and a very expensive undertaking.

One of the requirements mandated by the state, when a community wants to build a new school, is to identify and price out all repairs needed over the next five years and compare that to the cost of replacing the same structure. Our schools’ results show we would spend almost ¾ the cost of a new school to repair what we have. Also consider: the repair project will result in a much smaller reimbursement (if any) from the state because we are not improving the educational experience.

The proposed new middle/high school will have the latest technology for teachers and students, high efficiency mechanical systems, a state-of-the-art auditorium, 21st century safety infrastructure – all brand new. The state reimbursement for the completion of the project stands at 55% of the $190 million price tag.

Please join in me in supporting the school bond.

– Tom Welch, Middletown Town Councilor




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