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The Newport City Council voted 5 – 2 this evening to approve sending a request to the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing the City of Newport and the Town of Middletown to establish a regional school district.

In Middletown tonight, Middletown Town Council was also considering several resolutions around regionalization.

The Town Council voted unanimously to take the next step towards regionalizing schools with Newport and a $235 million bond for all new Middletown schools.

[Read More – Town of Middletown: Town Council votes to look into an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ for Middletown Schools]

Now that both councils have approved, that will mean the legislature will be asked to authorize the regionalization referendum in November. That request had to be submitted to the legislature before it recesses sometime in June. 

What it doesn’t mean, is that a regionalization proposal will be complete, Newport Mayor Jeanne Marie Napolitano told What’sUpNewp’s Frank Prosnitz last week.

“This is an important first step,” Napolitano said then. “We don’t have all the details. What is before us is the document to send to the legislature seeking authorization to include the question on the ballot”.

She said over the next several weeks an impressive team will be working on what will be the final regionalization plan. That group includes officials from both communities, including lawyers, plus the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. 

What Was Approved

At tonight’s Special Meeting, Newport City Council voted 5 – 2 to approve “Action Item #6073/22, re:  Regional School District – Ballot Authorization (w/accompanying resolution)”

Councilor Bova and Councilor McCalla voted against the resolution. Councilor Bova and McCalla explain their reasoning for voting against beginning at 58:30 below.

Middletown had previously rejected a regionalization proposal but apparently reversed its stance once the town’s school building committee proposed a $90 million school improvement bond. That plan was rejected by the council.

Newport, meanwhile, is in the midst of its school reconstruction project, an addition to Pell Elementary School, which is underway, and a new high school, with groundbreaking within a few weeks. Newport voters approved a $106 million school construction bond in 2020.

If voters approve regionalization, it will mean millions of dollars in savings for the local communities, lifting the state reimbursement up to 80 percent. Communities are only guaranteed 35 percent reimbursement, with additional funds available for reaching certain incentives. But without regionalization, that number would likely be no more than 52 percent. In real dollars, for Newport, the difference between 52 percent state reimbursement and 80 percent, is roughly $30 million.

Additionally, Mayor Napolitano and Newport School Superintendant Colleen Burns Jermain have said during interviews with What’sUpNewp that regionalization would likely offer more opportunities for students.

[ICYMI – May 4: Newport School Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain joins What’sUpNewp for a live virtual video conversation on Thursday]

Watch Newport City Council Special Meeting

This story is developing, further updates to come.

Related:

May 12 – School regionalization faces critical votes on Monday

May 4 – Mayor Napolitano: Newport/Middletown moving forward with school unification

May 2 – Mayor Napolitano will join What’sUpNewp for a live virtual video conversation on Tuesday

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Ryan Belmore is the Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here - https://whatsupnewp.com/2021/09/letter-from-the-publisher-some-personal-news/

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at ryan@whatsupnewp.com and 401-662-1653.