WARWICK, RI – Plans to build two new high schools at $350 million need voter support in November, so local organizations are hosting a public forum to answer questions about the new high schools project Tuesday night.
The Warwick Beacon, the Rotary Club of Warwick, and the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, Inc. are organizing the forum to answer commonly asked questions about the effort. The forum will go from 6-8 p.m., and be held at Crowne Plaza, 801 Greenwich Ave, Warwick, RI 02886.
The City Council approved a resolution supporting the Stage 2 submittal to RIDE (Rhode Island Department of Education) in early 2022. That decision followed a decisive rejection of the Warwick School Committee’s original plan for another round of repairs on the existing buildings.
In May 2021, the committee voted to approve renovations for Pilgrim High and Toll Gate High Schools, projected to be $176.7 million with construction lasting 36 months. For Toll Gate, the cost was $125.4 million, with construction lasting 36 months.
“RIDE’s feedback was immediately given, and negative,” Warwick Schools Director of Facilities and Grounds Stephen Gothberg said Jan. 11. “RIDE did not agree with renovating of the high schools due to the difficulty in the phasing of construction and the fact that students would be impacted by construction for four years.”
Instead, the Stage 2 proposal to RIDE for two new high schools was submitted on Feb. 15. Gothberg said the submission consisted of six binders containing more than 1,600 pages of data and two sets of drawings, each over 200 pages. The documents are in the process of being reviewed by RIDE and the School Building Authority (SBA).
With RIDE reimbursement, Warwick taxpayer’s share would come in at approximately $200 million dollars. Warwick Finance Director Peder Schaefer estimates that on a home currently assessed at $300,000, this would represent a property tax increase of $330 to $490 a year, for 20 years.
In February, faced with no state support for fixing the city’s two remaining, aging, high schools, Warwick City Councilors noted that replacing the schools with state support was better than the alternative, which would likely mean the state closing one or both schools and sending students to a neighboring district.
More detail on the projects is available in WarwickPost.com archives, which also links to recent meetings discussing the projects in depth.
During the forum, the following questions will be addressed, according to the forum’s agenda:
- Why do we need 2 new high schools when enrollment is dropping?
- How did we get to this point of two new schools?
- How much of the projected $350 million cost of the schools will be reimbursed?
- What will new schools give Warwick that it doesn’t have now?
- What will it cost taxpayers to build the new schools?
- If we don’t build the schools now, is there any guarantee of reimbursement from the state?
- What happens if $350 million isn’t enough to build the schools?
- Do we know now if $350 million is enough to build the schools?
- Could we build one new school and then see if there’s money to build the second?
- What is the projected cost of keeping the old schools – fixing enough to keep them operational?
- Lynn Dambruch, Superintendent Warwick Schools
- Peder Schaefer, City of Warwick Finance Director
- Katie Kernizan, associate SAAM Architecture
- RI Dept. of Education Representative
- David Testa, Warwick School Committee
- Phil Slocum, Slocum | Real Estate & Insurance.
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