The Middletown Town Council met for more than 4 1/2 hours on Monday night.
On the agenda were two items in regards to school unification/regionalization;
Action: Town Administrator Shawn Brown shared a financial impact study that he prepared in regards to regionalization/consolidation with the City of Newport.
Town Council – 35. Memoranda two (2) of Councillor VonVillas, re: 1) High School Unification and 2) Comparative Analysis of Electives in Programs of Studies- Middletown High School – Barrington High School and North Kingstown High School.
Action: A motion made by Councillor VonVillas that “the Middletown Town Council engage in discussions limited to creating a unified high school with the stipulation that the two municipalities would have equal status with strict municipal financial oversight even if specific new legislation is required” failed 1-6. With just VonVillas in favor.
Original Story – June 30th at 8:08 pm
The Middletown Democratic Town Committee announced on Facebook on Saturday that they have voted to present Middletown Town Council with a resolution that would support the discussion of a unified high school with Portsmouth and Newport.
A Resolution of Support for Discussion of a Unified High School with Portsmouth and Newport by The Middletown Democratic Town Committee.
Now Whereas The Towns of Middletown, Portsmouth and City of Newport each have high schools with aging facilities and flat or declining student populations of students;
And Whereas The City of Newport asked the Middletown Town Council and the Portsmouth Town Council to engage in full and open discussions of high school unification and regional schools consolidation; and ask
And Whereas The Town of Portsmouth agreed to enter into a preliminary discussion with the City of Newport;
And Whereas The small, separate Rogers and Middletown and Portsmouth high schools with declining student populations cannot now or in the foreseeable future provide the breadth and depth of curricula needed and deserved by future generations;
And Whereas As school budgets decline and enrollments fall, schools and districts find themselves in the difficult position of eliminating or restricting classes, extracurricular activities and, in some cases, altering grade configurations due to school closures and capacity issues. Consolidation may have the potential to alleviate the economic pressures that lead to these decisions through increasing cost savings and creating a critical mass of students that would enable the districts to expand curricular and extra-curricular activities.
And Whereas The aging (over 50 years old) high school facilities in Newport and Middletown cannot efficiently support the curriculum needs of a state-of-the-art high school;
And Whereas The Rhode Island Department of Education has indicated that financial support of up to 63% is available for a new unified high school;
And Whereas “The only practical manner to explore the opportunities and challenges of a unified high school is through discussions between the Middletown Town Council, Portsmouth Town Council and Newport City Council, their respective School Committees and the citizens of Middletown and Newport and Portsmouth ;
And Wheras Opening a discovery discussion is non-binding and there is no good reason to not further evaluate the opportunity we have to modernize and improve our educational opportunities and outcomes for the children in our community. This step is to gather facts and inform the citizens of both communities of those facts to then make a decision on what is best for the community.
Now Be It Resolved” That the Middletown Democratic Town Committee requests and encourages the Middletown Town Council to support engaging in discussions with Newport and Portsmouth and exploring possible scenarios and their due diligence.
Further, Be it Resolved That the Middletown Town Council appoint representatives of the Middletown Town Council, School Committee and Middletown voters to an Ad Hoc Committee to discuss with their Newport and Portsmouth counterparts the opportunities, challenges and solutions of unification, construction of a new unified high school, and to provide a recommendation to the Middletown Town Council on whether high school unification should proceed and, if so, how it can be accomplished.
Middletown Town Council Meeting On Monday Night
In a Facebook Event titled Middletown Town Council Meeting – Ask For A Seat At The Table, they state “The Portsmouth Town Council surprised many of us by agreeing to enter into a preliminary discussion regarding a unified high school on Aquidneck Island. The Middletown Town Council voted against entering into any discussions, but this was prior to Portsmouth’ decision. We are asking Middletown residents who feel as though the Council should take another vote in support of non-binding discussions based upon this new information to attend the Town Council meeting on Monday July 1st at 7 PM at the Middletown Town Hall or send an email in support to : TownCouncil@middletownri.com”.
History with Middletown
Newport officials had approached the Middletown Council asking that it agree to participate in a feasibility to study to see if a merged system, either total or just high schools, was possible.
The Middletown Town Council voted 5 to 2 against continuing the discussion with Newport to determine the feasibility of merging Middletown and Newport schools (k-12) and/or high schools.
A vote to move forward by the Middletown Council would have only authorized a feasibility study, not approve regionalization. The plan, as suggested by Newport, and in large part required by the state, would have begun with the development of a Regional District Planning Board to study the feasibility of regionalization. A study that could take up to 18 months.
For Newport, critical is replacement of Rogers High School, characterized by a RIDE study as the high school in worse physical condition than any other in the state.
Portsmouth Town Council recently voted 7 -0 last to approve a motion to “discuss the possibilities of working together to provide the best educational opportunities for all of our students”.
This story is developing and will be updated as more information is made available.