Aerial view of Rogers High School in 2016. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License

Just over a year ago, the Rogers High School Class of ’99 celebrated our 20th year reunion.  During the planning process, I was dismayed to learn that our alma mater apparently stands in a sad state of disrepair, to the extent that it was the subject of a student walkout during 2018.  I am amazed at the initiative of the kids who organized the walkout, and simultaneously really disturbed that in my hometown – or any city or town – kids would find themselves in a situation where they felt they needed to take that step.  Clearly, something needs to be done and the question of building a new high school seems to be not if, but when. 

I certainly hope that the bond proposal for a new Rogers High School building and expansion of the Pell School passes the ballot box this fall.  My husband and I are in the process of looking for a permanent home in Newport in which to raise our two young children.  I have completely sold my husband on the prospects of Newport for our family – a small city by the sea, with amazing natural and man-made amenities and a community that is laid-back, creative and accepting; up-scale and down-scale at the same time; walkable, bikeable, loveable. For generations, Newport has sustained a healthy year-round community of families with a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds despite the historical glitz and glam associated with the city.  Growing up in such a unique community and attending Thompson and Rogers were huge parts of who I am today and I want that same experience to be available to my children and all the kids and families of Newport. 

The opportunity to build a new high school with such a significant contribution from the state seems like a no-brainer.  I currently work as a bank lender to subsidized real estate projects and I can definitively say that a 52.5% rate of subsidy is an opportunity not to be missed.  I cannot see how this proposal could possibly be criticized on a cost basis, given that repairs to the existing structure are projected to be more expensive.   Attempts at regionalization seem politically unfeasible and unlikely to provide any certainty in the near future.  No community project will ever see 100% support and I’m sure some folks have their issues with the particulars of this proposal, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good or kick the can down the road on this one.  Seize the day – and the cash!

Penny Billington Hunt

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