Aida Neary, Parent of 3rd grader and 5th grader and member of Newport School Committee
I am writing to urge the city council to pass the resolution on school construction on May 27.
Despite the pandemic, nothing has changed when it comes to schools. Rogers High School is still the worst high school facility in the state. Just a year ago approximately 100 students walked out of the building demanding better conditions. Two years ago, the voters of Newport overwhelmingly (over 80%) approved a state-wide bond for school construction, clearly understanding that we would need some of that money for a new high school. Pell Elementary still needs more room. It was true when we built it and it’s still true today. The pandemic hasn’t changed any of those fundamentals.
What about money? The state bond money from 2018 is still there and is slated for school construction only. It will not be available forever. The incentives which would give us a chance at 52.5% reimbursement rate are still there—for now. Municipal bond rates are at a historic low, hovering between 0.4% and 1.5%. There will not be a better time to borrow money for a long time.
Does it feel scary to take on such a large project at a time like this? Yes, yes it does. But in a city that is overwhelmingly reliant on tourism, a major construction project will infuse much needed cash into our economy. While buildings are not everything, families will not choose to make their home in a city that does not invest in its schools. Newport will need families to make their homes here to weather the financial impact of the pandemic.
To quote the Jacbos Report which found Rogers High School to be the worst high school building in the state: “Schools in better condition have better student behavior and more effective teaching. Clean, quiet, safe, comfortable, and healthy learning environments are important components of successful teaching and learning.”