With a little less than six months before a special election, plans for a new middle-high school remain on time and budget.
School Building Committee Co-Chairman Edward Brady offered details about the latest with the proposed facility just north of the existing Gaudet Middle School to the Town Council Monday night in Town Hall.
Among that work included getting the most accurate student counts possible, something Brady said was critical to making sure the building was designed properly to serve the community for decades.
Before anything moves forward, voters must approve a $190 million bond package at a special election expected for Nov. 7.
“We’re trying to come up with a number that will reflect what the growth is going to be…” Brady said. “Also…we have to make sure we can support those numbers.”
In response, council President Paul M. Rodrigues said he was happy to hear the volunteer school building board was working hard to gather all the best data for the combined school. Throughout, Rodrigues has been adamant the town must get the cost of the project and student projections spot on.
“I’m glad to hear we’re taking a look at enrollment,” Rodrigues said. “I do think that’s somewhat of a fluid number…We want to make sure we nail down two things — enrollment and budget.”
Councilman Dennis Turano asked whether considerations were being to the flexibility of the new school made should the school enrollment decline down the line. Brady said with every aspect of the new building, today and tomorrow were key considerations.
At the end of the discussion, Rodrigues and other council members thanked Brady and everyone else dedicating so much time, energy and expertise into the school project.
“Ed, thank you as always,” Rodrigues said. “You’re on top of it and we appreciate all the effort you and your team are putting into this.”
Action is needed because an independent November 2021 building study showed $190 million in work was needed to the existing schools before a wall or ceiling was opened. That included asbestos remediation, safety upgrades, roof repairs and other improvements to bring the schools to today’d educational standards. Visit https://mdl.town/Report to read that study.
A subsequent report from the state Department of Education (RIDE) indicated the buildings housing both Middletown High and Gaudet Middle were in such tough shape, they needed to be replaced. Go to https://mdl.town/FCI online for that report.
Previously, the volunteer School Building Committee guiding the new middle-high school campaign and outside experts have said rehabbing the existing facilities is cost prohibitive and will not net Middletown the 21st century buildings it needs. More than one estimate has shown it would cost more to fix what Middletown has than to build new.
After significant discussion, the combined middle-high school on fields just north of Gaudet Middle School emerged as the most viable option to move Middletown schools forward.
Under the latest designs, flexibility and safety were points of emphasis along with lots of natural light, strong Middletown pride and healthy spaces.
In addition to new state-of-the-art schools, proponents have said one of the big selling points of the project was temporary classrooms wouldn’t be needed. The way the project is planned, students would remain in the existing schools until the new building was completed, minimizing any disruptions from the construction project.
Those involved in the process said contrary to the perceptions of some, offering the best educational opportunities is what’s driving the layout of the new building, not vice versa.
Ideally, officials have said Middletown would take care of all its schools at once. However, due to funding limitations, there’s only so much the community can take on at one time.
According to the latest talk, the Oliphant Lane property now home to the school administrative offices would be repurposed for a town senior affordable housing project. As for the Aquidneck School, that Reservoir Road property has been mentioned as the potential site for a Middletown community center, a facility currently lacking in town.
For the latest information about the project, visit https://mdl.town/NewSchool online. The volunteer School Building Committee is also providing regular updates at https://mdl.town/BuildingCommittee online.