PAWTUCKET — The Pawtucket school committee voted last week in favor of a unified high school and will express that recommendation in a letter to the city council.
The decision was made by a 4-2 vote at a school committee meeting on March 24. Opposing members included Joseph Knight and Kimberly Grant, while Gérard Charbonneau was absent from the vote. A motion by Knight to reconsider the item at the next meeting failed with the same 4-2 vote lines.
Conversations regarding the unified high school have been ongoing for months now, and the idea has already met with opposition from members of the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts community. In February, members sought feedback from the community before moving forward.
After some discussion last week, Vice President Robert Moreno introduced a motion, seconded by Members Joanne Bonnollo and Stephen Larbi, to express his support for the Unified High School and to write a letter expressing this decision to City Council. The motion was eventually passed, but not without questioning.
“…I think in theory the unified high school is a good idea, but I don’t know if Pawtucket is really ready for it,” Grant said. “I just don’t know if we’re ready for it yet. If we had more time and I could get more answers I would feel so much better, but right now I can’t accept that.
“…It’s been rejected by this school board four times before,” Knight said.
Additionally, he said, the committee has already authorized funds for renovations at Charles E. Shea Sr. High School, and he expressed concern about the ability to complete the unified high school project within a window of two years to maintain support grants. The school board had already received a two-year extension on a $100 million grant last year after members had to answer too many questions in a short time.
“So we’re talking about a process of about five years,” said Derek Osterman of Colliers International on March 24.
According to Osterman, the fastest the committee could submit for the first stage of a construction program would be September, which means the fastest it could submit for the second stage would be next February. This would allow them to obtain a “probable” approval in May 2023. It would then take them another year of design and two to three years of construction.
“…You’ll know pretty quickly whether or not the Legislature is going to get on board and let you go and see the voters,” Osterman said. “And I would agree then you have the other clock which is the existing $100 million that you would need to act…”
Mayor Donald Grebien said in a statement this week that the administration “would like to thank the school committee members who voted in favor of non-binding support for the combined high school. We truly appreciate that they place the needs of our students above all else as we seek to provide our high school students with the learning environment they need and deserve.
The ad hoc subcommittee of the Pawtucket School Board to Study the High School Academic Complex, chaired by Mr. Jay Charbonneau, previously unanimously supported the concept of a new state-of-the-art high school campus and CTE , said Grebien.
The Mayor and City Council have repeatedly stated that we have an opportunity to provide a vibrant campus for learning, career exploration, athletics and community activities for our city,” he said. declared.
The school board also last week approved a timetable for the 2022-2023 school year. The first day of school for students will be August 31. The last day, with catch-up days for emergency or snow days, would be June 15. These are in line with the state calendar, with the exception of the April vacation which will be the third week of the month.