New Middletown Middle-High School Design Gets Positive Response

The latest designs for a new middle-high school won high marks Monday.

The Town Council got its first glimpse at the proposed grade 6-12 school at 1225 Aquidneck Ave. just north of the existing Gaudet Middle School during a meeting in Town Hall.

Dubbed “Option Z,” architects said the layout was intended to feel welcoming, safe, inspiring and easy to navigate while balancing opens with privacy and security. HMFH and DBVW architects said the proposal allows the middle and high schools to function independently while sharing key spaces and celebrate Middletown’s history and unique identity.

They also said the plan would help spark learning and create more opportunities for teacher and student collaboration while growing Career Tech programs and access to the latest state-of-the-art technology to better compete in today’s evolving world, whether at college, a career or the military.

Growing on an early theme, they said the plan would strive towards a “Net Zero Energy-ready” building that guaranteed fresh air, daylight and quality views in at least 90 percent of all occupied spaces and emphasize sustainability throughout.

Voters are expected to go to the polls during a special Nov. 7 election to have their say about the proposal to help bring Middletown’s school buildings into the 21st century.

School Building Committee Co-Chairman Edward Brady said his volunteer board was pleased with the latest design, which was a natural for the property.

“The building works with the site and from the street view, you see the high school from Aquidneck Avenue and the middle school from Turner Road,” Brady said. “Personally, I like how the entrances have the same orientation — the high school from the west and the middle school from the east.”

Brady also applauded how the new school was laid out to best capitalize on space and shared assets.

“The center of the complex is position to service each school and the public,” Brady said. “Two cafeterias, a single kitchen, a media center, a large dividable gym and an auditorium all work really well together.”

Fellow School Building Committee member Don Morin said there was a lot to like about the accessibility and layout of the proposed school, both educationally and for the community.

“From a school segregation standpoint, the high school entrance on the west side (ground floor) is one floor below the middle school entrance (first floor) on the east side of the building,” Morin said. “The second floor provides a nice connection between the middle and high schools, which are located on opposite sides of the media center on this level. This would be the ideal floor to house eighth graders on the middle school side and ninth graders on the high school side should there be a desire to move between the two, and would also allow for a seamless transition from eighth to ninth grade.”

Morin said the design works for the community as a whole too.

“Given that the Gaudet school serves as the regional FEMA shelter, the new school will have to do the same,” Morin said. “The sectional Z design allows for easy access to the gym at the ground level, making it very easy for the community to enter if it has to be used as a shelter and for voter access during elections. The gym is also on the north end of the school, allowing for easy access from the locker rooms to the main athletic fields.”

The word is the latest in a string of good news for the project to start the overhaul of Middletown’s aging school buildings, each which are at least 50 years old.

Over the summer, the town learned it should receive a 55 percent reimbursement from the state to help pay for the school, meaning for every dollar spent on the school, Middletown was in line to get 55 cents in return.

An independent report in November 2021 showed the schools needed $190 million in upgrades before a wall or ceiling were opened. A March 2023 study from the state mirrored those findings, indicating it would cost more for Middletown to fix the schools it already has than replace them. To see those documents, go to and online.

Worried the 50-plus year old schools would continue to adversely impact the quality of education, the volunteer School Building Committee recommended in November 2022 to propose the school at the former Starlight Drive-In site.

Grades 6-8 would be separate from the high school students. In addition to warm, welcoming, healthy and secure spaces, the new school would feature an auditorium, gymnasium and library, among other assets.

Plans are still evolving around the placement of the pre kindergarten through fifth grades, but the existing Middletown High School campus on Valley Road appears to be at the heart of those dialogues.

Project leaders have said every aspect of the new school effort was “on time and on budget.” This includes an overhaul of the curriculum to bring courses more in keeping with 21st century learning to the layout of the 210,000-square-foot structure and other details.

Previously, proponents have said they’d prefer to redo all the schools at once. However, the town’s independent financial experts — Hilltop Securities — have said that’s not possible due to limits on the town’s borrowing capacity.

A recent Hilltop analysis showed the $190 million proposal was well within the guardrails for sound fiscal management. Visit NYCU-55 for more.

Along with the new state-of-the-art schools, proponents have said a big selling point was temporary classrooms wouldn’t be needed. The way the project is planned, students would remain in the existing schools until the new building was completed, minimizing any disruptions from the construction project.

Contrary to the perceptions of some, those involved in the process said offering the best educational opportunities is what’s driving the layout of the new building — not vice versa.




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