Rogers High School

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), on Tuesday, will determine funding levels for the six school districts that applied for aid from the $250 million school facilities bond approved by voters last fall.

The bond issue was in response to a RIDE report that rated every Rhode Island public and charter school, most schools not meeting adequate standards. The report said it would cost more than $2.2 billion to bring the state’s schools to an adequate level, and more than $600 million just to bring all schools to a safe level.

Initially six districts applied, and all are being recommended for approval to RIDE’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, which meets Tuesday.

Notably absent from the first group is Newport, whose Rogers High School was rated among the worst facilities in the state, a replacement candidate. City officials are facing what they believe will be a rebuilding project of upwards of $100 million, plus debt service. Newport officials are actively trying to engage Middletown officials in discussions of a possible merger of the two high school systems. Middletown’s High School was rated poor by RIDE.

There will be a second round of grants in the fall, with school districts vying for what remains of the $250 million bond. Some officials, from other districts, seem confident the state will continue to seek additional referenda to help improve school facilities.

Additionally, the state annually budgets funds under a School Building Authority Capital Fund (SBA), a funding mechanism created in 2016 to provide upfront funding for projects. In this fiscal year, the General Assembly allocated $80 million under this program.

The six districts that applied in the initial round are Providence, Westerly, Cranston, Foster, Foster/Glocester Regional, and Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts.

RIDE is also considering one-time grants to several projects that had previously been approved from May 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2018.

Minimum state participation is 35 percent, with amounts ranging well beyond that depending upon several factors, from the wealth of a community to efforts at consolidation.

Here are the proposals from the six districts:

  • Providence. Projects at numerous schools totaling $278,430,300, of which the recommendation says the state will pay $229,667,409, “when the applicable reimbursement share ratios are applied to the estimated total project costs.”
  • Westerly. Projects at several schools totaling $74,284,759, including construction of a new elementary school. The estimated state share is $25,999,666, which represents the minimum 35 percent under the statewide bond. It’s unclear whether the state amount will increase if other incentives are applied. Westerly School Building members have been estimating a 50 percent state share.
  • Cranston. Repairs at two middle schools and an elementary school, estimated at $13,497,432, with the state share $7,010,242.
  • Foster/Glocester. Repairs and renovations at Ponaganset High and Middle Schools of $4,485,000, with the total state share of $2,263,898.
  • Foster. Repairs and renovations to the Captain Isaac Paine Elementary of $1 million, with the total state share of $350,000.
  • Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts. Site purchase, repairs and renovations totaling $11,298,705, with the state share expected to be $3,389,612.

Districts are expected to submit bond proposals for local approval to pay for the local share of the projects. Actual costs will increase considerably with interest on bonds that could add millions in debt service for communities.