As a father, a Rogers High School graduate, a friend of students, teachers, and life long-learners, and a City Council Candidate – I need to voice an official opinion on the pending school bond.
In 2018, 84.1% of Newporters supported the successful Rhode Island School Infrastructure Bond, which established a $250 million-dollar fund for school renovation and construction projects throughout Rhode Island. To gain access to these funds, a municipality needs to follow an eighteen-month process, established by the RI Department of Education (RIDE), including public meetings, demographic studies, facility assessments, and comprehensive reports. Newport followed this process and has been approved for a new state-of-the-art Rogers High School and Career and Technical Education (CTE) facility. In November, our community has the opportunity to pass a municipal bond to move this project forward. Here are the reasons why, I am in favor.
Currently as it stands, Rogers High School is one of the worst high school buildings in Rhode Island. Renovations of the existing building are estimated to cost $76 million and wouldn’t make changes to the antiquated building layout and design. Additionally, RIDE has explicitly told Newport that it will not fund the cost of a renovation.
Newport will receive back 52.5% of the cost of bond from the State, thanks to the Statewide Bond mentioned before. This will alleviate a large amount of the tax burden on our community and provide us with a brand-new High School – all at roughly the same cost of maintaining the old one for the next 5 years. Also, it should be noted that as a result of the COVID pandemic our State will need a few years to recover financially. This would suggest that a future State School Infrastructure Bond is unlikely, which means we should take advantage of the current opportunity.
Probably most importantly, public education creates a critical foundation for our children’s future. The connection between education facilities and student achievement is well-established. At RIDE’s May 27, 2020 meeting, they recognized that Rogers has “outdated systems that are not aligned with the district’s educational program vision. The new High School will be a 165,783 square foot comprehensive facility that blends both academics and vocational programs into a 21st Century learning environment.” The plans for a new Rogers High School and the integrated curriculum will help set our children on a path to success, but also incentive businesses and families alike to move here and contribute to our year-round economy.
Lastly, and this is key, regionalization will never be off the table. Investing in a new school now, only provides Newport with the opportunity to leverage our successes and our community, when our neighbors find themselves in a similar situation. Regionalization has been discussed for decades with no success, so why would we think that we would get a different response if we do not pass the Bond. I stand behind investing in Newport and its education as a solution our community needs.
Candidate for Newport’s 3rd Ward City Council