To help residents understand some of educational benefits to students and the cost benefits to taxpayers of a unified high school, Newport This Week will be hosting several island-wide forums to help educate the public on a future model. The first forum, “The Future of Our Island High Schools,” is on Monday, Oct. 28, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the CCRI Newport Auditorium.

The forum will be moderated by Neil Steinberg, President and CEO of the RI Foundation. Panelists will include Christine Johnson, Asst. Dir. of the Mass. Assoc. of Regional Schools (MARS); Christine Lopes-Metcalfe, Chief Exec. Officer, School Building Authority (RIDE); Tim Duffy Exec. Dir. of RI Assoc. of School Committees; Rep. Marvin Abney, Chairman House Committee on Finance; and Sen. Lou DiPalma, Member, Senate Committee on Education

The topic of unifying Newport and Middletown’s high schools was first explored in 2009 and again in 2014 when voters were asked whether they supported exploring the idea. Newport voted in favor, 65.2 to 34.8 percent, while Middletown rejected it, 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent.

Much has changed in the educational world over the past five years, not the least being the passage of a state bond that provides up to 80.5 percent reimbursement for the construction costs of a unified high school. 

Besides seeing interested residents, teachers and students attend it would be a good opportunity for parents of kindergarteners or first or second-graders to get involved. This is going to be a long process, and it’s the young students who might be the first ones to attend a unified Aquidneck Island high school. 

The second forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 6:30 -8 p.m. at CCRI Auditorium.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).