Expansion of Newport’s Pell Elementary School moves a step closer with a Topping Off Ceremony at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at the school, 35 Dexter Street.

A topping-off ceremony is a “steel signing ceremony” at which “members of the Pell community sign their names on the steel beams used in the project,” according to school officials.  After the signing, the beams will be lifted by crane and put in place in the building.

The eight-room, 1,500 square foot addition is part of the $106.3 million bond approved by voters last fall. Initially, the Pell project was estimated to cost $7.4 million, but Superintendent of Schools Colleen Jermain now says those costs have increased by more than 23 percent.

Jermain said costs are also rising for the construction of a new Rogers High School, projected initially at $98.8 million, and now likely closer to $120 million.

[Newport School Superintendent joins What’s Up Newp for a live virtual video conversation]

The school department is actively raising funds to cover the shortfall. Newport has been approved for 52.5 percent reimbursement from the state.

The Pell addition includes eight classrooms and a welcome center for families.

Rogers High School was deemed the worst high school facility in the state in a survey conducted by the RI Department of Education a few years ago. Construction of the new school is not expected to begin until sometime in 2022, with completion expected in 2024.

The school is planned to accommodate 755 students in a comprehensive technical high school, including an integrated career technical high school with nearly 100 students from other eight communities.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.