Soil and other testing shows the site for a new middle-high school is solid.

During a project briefing earlier this week, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said the former Starlight Drive-In site — now multi-use fields — just north of Gaudet Middle School checked out very well.

The report was the latest in a string of positive news for the proposed project, which is expected to go before voters for approval at a special election on Nov. 7.

“Geotechnical work has been completed with the first round of borings,” Brown told the Town Council. “We’ve identified the site is suitable for a standard foundation. We’re not in a position where we need to pay for a specialized foundation or unique systems or anything that’s out of the ordinary. We have a very good site to build on. It’s good soil.”  

Brown also said pending legislation before the General Assembly looking to lower the price tag for Middletown taxpayers on the $190 million effort and smoothing out the impact of any bonds has been generally well received upstate.


Toward that end, Brown met with Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, Tuesday to discuss the legislation and answer questions.

The town is expected to know the results of its efforts with the six bills by the end of June, work that will assist with the costs, financing and other details of the proposal. 

Right now, the projected price tag for the school is about $2 a day for the median Middletown homeowner. Local leaders are working hard with the state legislative delegation and others to raise the reimbursements from the Rhode Island Department of Education to 65 percent, a move that would save the community millions.

Planning ahead as much as possible, conversations continue with Middletown Public Works, the state Department of Transportation, the Newport Water Division and other impacted groups involved with the upper Aquidneck Avenue road, sidewalk and drainage project. Brown said the goal is to have all the pipes and utilities needed in place so the new road surface doesn’t need to be torn up again when the new school is built.

The 231,000-square-foot middle-high school is designed so grades 6-8 and 9-12 would be completely separate and not occupy the same spaces. For economy, they would both access places like the cafeteria, auditorium and gyms and athletic fields, but at different times of the day.

The latest plan being discussed is to repurpose Forest Avenue School as a pre-kindergarten through first grade early childhood learning center. The former Middletown High School on Valley Road would be transformed into a grade two through five campus along with administrative and maintenance offices. 

The layout and design for the new middle-high school is really beginning to come together, Brown added.

“We’ve started to test conceptual plans for the building…” Brown said. “The main thing is to make sure that not only it fits on the property, but to make sure the middle school and high school, there’s that segregation between the buildings, that they share space and they share common areas, but are configured in a way that you have two separate buildings.”

On a related front, Brown said the experts designing the new combined school and its educational offerings are getting closer to wrapping up their assignments. The result, he said, will be a world-class new school and curriculum to match.

“We need to be active with the educational information, once that’s all available,” Brown said. “Residents can get some assurance that it’s not just an investment in capital, but there’s an educational component behind it that will result in better performance and better outcomes for our students.”

In November 2021, an independent architectural report found $190 million in work was needed to the district’s four schools before a ceiling or wall were opened. That included asbestos abatement, air quality improvements, security repairs and other problems identified in a lengthy report. Visit online to view that document.

A subsequent study done for the state reaffirmed those findings, saying both Middletown High and Gaudet Middle School need to be replaced. To check out those findings, go to online.

On Election Day last November, local residents overwhelmingly backed plans to regionalize schools with Newport — $235 million for a new middle-high school north of Gaudet Middle School as well as an elementary education center on the Valley Road site now home to Middletown High.

That project was nixed when Newport residents shot down regionalization by less than 400 votes, leaving close to $50 million in state education aid on the table. Less than a week later, City-By-The-Sea residents learned their new Rogers High School was $20 million in the hole.

After the Nov. 8 vote, the Middletown School Building Committee retained Colliers International as managers for a new project — the $190 million middle-high school on land just north of Gaudet.

The DBVW and HMFH architectural firms were also brought in to help design the best school possible within the town’s budget limits. Well regarded educational planning expert Manuel Cordero was retained to assist with the layout of the new building and to make sure the curriculum lined up with the design.

Throughout, town and educational officials have said they’d prefer to do all the schools at once. But because Middletown was in line for a 52 percent reimbursement from the state Department of Education — not the 80.5 percent plus available with regionalization — redoing all the schools remains out of reach.

For the latest information about the project, visit online. The volunteer School Building Committee is also providing regular updates at online


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