PROVIDENCE, R.I. - School buildings in every district
in the state get a failing grade in Rhode Island's first-ever statewide,
independent study of public school facilities.
The R.I. Department of Education (RIDE)'s 2017 State of
Rhode Island Schoolhouses report, a year-long assessment
commissioned by the School Building Authority (SBA) and completed by Jacobs
Engineering, forecasts $627.5 million in high-priority construction and repairs
needed to keep students and teachers warm, safe and dry in their classrooms.
The statewide cost to bring all school buildings into ideal condition is
estimated at $2.2 billion.
"Every generation of Rhode Islanders has worked hard
and made sacrifices so the next generation has more opportunity than the one
before. But most of our classrooms and school buildings haven't been improved
in 25 years," Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. "We must make a
once-in-a-generation investment in our school buildings to address immediate
health and safety needs in every district, and to give our children the 21st
century classrooms they need to compete in the world today."
At a press conference at the Bristol-Warren district's
Kickemuit Middle School attended by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary
Education Ken Wagner, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and dozens of state and
local school officials, community leaders and elected officials, Raimondo
signed an executive order creating the Rhode Island Schools Task Force. The
group will consider district feedback and public input to develop an action
plan that includes potential funding streams and recommendations on how to
effectively maximize resources. The task force will report its recommendations
to the Governor by December 2017.
Raimondo also said she will hold a series of community
forums in October to solicit feedback from parents, students, teachers and
school administrators before including a comprehensive school infrastructure
plan in her proposed FY19 budget.
"This is a call to action, and it is our hope that this
data-based approach will empower communities to thoughtfully prioritize their
needs and make smart investments, accordingly," said Commissioner Wagner.
"RIDE will continue to support districts in their efforts to modernize and
improve school infrastructure, with a renewed emphasis on projects that have
emerged as most urgently needed for the safety, well-being, and success of our
The task force, which is co-chaired by Treasurer Magaziner
and Commissioner Wagner, includes the following members:
* DOA Director Michael DiBiase, School Building Authority
* Senator Hanna Gallo (Cranston, West Warwick) on behalf of
* Jamestown Town Administrator Andy Nota, on behalf of the
League of Cities and Towns
* Joseph Dewhirst, Chairman, Rhode Island Health and
Educational Building Corporation
* Michael Sabitoni, President, RI Building and Construction
Trades Council and Business Manager, Laborers Local 271
* Frank Flynn, President, Rhode Island Federation of
Teachers and Health Professionals
* Larry Purtill, President, National Education Association
of Rhode Island and Member, Council of Elementary and Secondary Education
* Kinzel Thomas, Providence School Board, on behalf of the
RI Association of School Committees
* Barry Ricci, Chariho Superintendent, on behalf of the RI
* Patricia Flanagan, M.D., Pediatrician-in-Chief at Hasbro
Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical
School of Brown University
* Neil Steinberg, Rhode Island Foundation President
* John Hazen White, Jr., Chairman and Owner, Taco Comfort
* Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director, Rhode Island
"Our public schools are the foundation of economic
opportunity and Rhode Islanders have had to settle for antiquated and
inadequate schools for too long," Treasurer Magaziner said. "We have
a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get smarter about how we plan and finance
school construction at the State and local levels. I look forward to bringing
together stakeholders from throughout the Ocean State to develop a plan that
puts Rhode Islanders to work building the schools that will allow our next
generations to compete and succeed."
The state Senate's appointee to the School Building Task
Force, Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo, said,
"Children can't reach their potential in cold classrooms or under leaky
roofs. The way schools are designed and constructed is important, and the way
we fund school construction aid needs to reflect the priority we place on
quality learning environments. Improving the physical state of our schools
continues to be a priority for the Senate, and we are grateful that Governor
Raimondo recognizes the critical importance these investments have on the
future of our state's economy."
The Jacobs study began in January 2016 and involved the
on-site assessment of 306 school campuses, accounting for more than 24 million
square feet, by teams of architects, engineers, and specialists. These
assessment teams evaluated everything from roofs and HVAC systems to technology
and acoustics, identifying deficiencies and creating a five-year lifecycle
forecast for each facility. Potential energy cost savings were also identified,
amounting to $33.6 million annually across the state.
The report breaks down five levels of priority costs, ranging
from mission critical to aesthetic enhancements. The $627.5 million safe, warm,
and dry standard represents priorities 1 and 2 from the total facility
deficiencies. Of that figure, $54.5 million in deficiencies are considered
"priority 1," or "mission critical concerns," such as
building safety or code compliance.
"This marks the end of the study but just the beginning
of a conversation on how we can better protect and maximize school facilities
across the state, because investing in our schools and our students cannot
wait," said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. "With
this clear understanding of the state of our school facilities, all
stakeholders - from the schoolhouse to the State House - are better positioned
to move forward, together, and improve conditions for all kids."
In addition to the assessment report and the recommended
action plan delivered by Jacobs, the public has full access to the data, broken
down by district and individual schools. An interactive map available on RIDE's
website enables Rhode Islanders to compare districts and review findings for
their local schools.