The school committee votes to support the school’s modernization project at the request of the State | West

WEST — School board members approved a measure last week in a show of support for the Rhode Island Department of Education after state officials contacted the district to request such documents.

The committee is well aware that the success of the project does not depend on a letter of support from the district or the city, but on the residents who will be responsible for deciding the fate of the $50 million elementary school redevelopment project. dollars. If approved by voters, the project would involve building a new State Street School and carrying out renovations to schools in Dunn’s Corners and Springbrook.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau told committee members last week that the vote, which was approved 6-0 in the absence of member Christine Cooke, was the result of a request made by the state as part of the State’s review of the Stage II refund request.

“We have already submitted the Phase II application for the project, which is on the November 8 ballot,” Garceau said. “While RIDE is working on the app, we were informed last week that they wanted more supporting documentation from the School Committee and City Council. If that were to happen, I think the city council would be prepared to do the same.

The vote served only as a formal show of support in an attempt to gain state approval. With wording approved by Westerly City Council when it voted to put the bond on the November ballot, the bond issue would be subject to a minimum 35% state redemption. The repayment rate is expected to be higher, officials said, and the board has already set the maximum amount to be borrowed for the project at $50 million, regardless of the impact of inflation by the start of the month. project.

The proposed construction project is seen as the final segment of the city’s Vision 2020 campaign which was first developed in 2001. The final phase of the plan included tackling the city’s elementary schools, after seeing the middle school built in 2005 and completed renovations to the high school in 2012.

Since the construction of the middle school and major renovations at the high school, in 2017 the state released the Jacobs Report, an assessment of all public school buildings in the state, which identified needs in all schools in the district.

Garceau told the school committee that their supporting vote should be sufficient for the state, but that he would approach the city council if the state determines that additional documents are still needed.

“In terms of city council support, they had been discussing that for some time and had been clear in approving the link to a specific cap, and we worked to that cap,” Garceau said. “There’s also a lot of documentation there, but I’m sure if the council were told they had to take a similar vote, I would think they would support that.”

For school board members and project proponents, the next major action over the next month will be to get the details and facts surrounding the project out to the public.

Committee member Michael Ober, who sits on the building subcommittee, said getting the facts out to the public and ensuring voters have accurate information will remain a top priority over the next month.

“We’re out of the planning and publicity stages, so the question now is how to present the issue and the facts, and where to present them,” Ober said.

Voters previously rejected two proposals that would have addressed the city’s elementary schools, including a 2016 proposal focused on improving elementary schools. A proposal in 2019 would have focused primarily on elementary schools, but would also provide funding for updates to Westerly Middle School and Westerly High School.

Both failed in referendums.

In the next election, voters will be asked to answer yes or no to the following referendum question:

“An Act authorizing the City of Westerly to issue general bonds, notes and other indebtedness not exceeding $50,000,000 to finance the construction, renovation, improvement, alteration, repair, furnishing and equipping schools and educational facilities throughout the city, subject to approval of state housing assistance at a reimbursement rate or state share of at least 35% for expenditure eligible for state aid and provided that the allowance is reduced by any grant received from the School Building Authority Investment Fund. »

The ballot issue and grant requirements were approved by Westerly City Council in August.

A copy of the plan, including a breakdown of projected project expenses, is available on the Westerly Public Schools website at Ober said the committee will also need to continue to work with school administrators to distribute information at as many school and local events as possible.

“We will continue to publicize and disseminate this information so voters can make an informed decision,” Ober said.