Update: After more than 2 hours of discussion, the Middletown Town Council voted 5 to 2 tonight against continuing the discussion with Newport to determine the feasibility of merging Middletown and Newport schools.

VonVillas and Flynn were the councilors voted to continue the conversation.

Original Story

The Middletown Town Council is expected to decide tonight (Monday) whether to engage in a study to determine the feasibility of merging Middletown and Newport’s Rogers High Schools.

Two weeks ago, Newport City officials, armed with projections that the state would pay more than 80 percent to build a new high school and regionalize grades K-12, urged the Middletown Council to at least authorize a study that could take up to 18 months.

If Middletown and Newport were to regionalize just the high school and keep k-8 separate, the state would reimburse approximately 60% for the new high school.

Newport Mayor Jamie Bova and other city officials have promised to return to the Middletown Council tonight. The meeting is scheduled for 7 pm at Middletown Town Hall, 350 East Main Road, and is open to the public.

Efforts to merge the high schools have failed in the past, but now a state Department of Education Study has rated Middletown’s High School in poor condition, and Rogers in need of replacement. Both schools are operating at about half their capacity.

“It’s a very different scenario,” Bova has said.

The biggest change has been last year’s approval statewide of a $250 million bond to upgrade school facilities across the state. The bond approval came after a report identified that just to meet adequate standards, the state and school districts need to invest more than $2.2 billion in facility upgrades. To just bring schools statewide to safe standards, the report said the state and municipalities need invest nearly $700 million.

Two weeks ago, Newport councilors said the state has indicated it is prepared to reimburse the towns 80.5 percent of the cost of a new regional high school (and regionalization of k-12). If the towns went on their own, that figure, officials suggest, would drop to 35 percent.

Put in real dollars, the model presented by Newport officials put a price tag for a new high school at about $100 million. The stay would pay $80.5 million and each of the towns would kick in $9.75 million, millions of dollars less than they would need to spend, even if they chose to repair the schools, rather than replace them.

The state’s figure includes a base rate of 35 percent, 26 percent as a regional bonus, and 19.5 percent if the project maximizes a series of incentives offered under the $250 million bond.

A vote by the Middletown Council would only authorize a feasibility study, not approve regionalization. The plan, as suggested by Newport, and in large part required by the state, would begin with the development of a Regional District Planning Board to study the feasibility of regionalization.

If the study concluded that regionalization was feasible, a proposed agreement would be submitted to RIDE and the Middletown and Newport Councils for approval, with a referendum vote in each city in the summer or fall of 2021.

From The Editor:

In a recent poll of 301 Facebook followers, 73% of people were for the unification of Middletown and Rogers High Schools.

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