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New High Schools Project Enabling Work Begins July 16

[CREDIT: WP composite] A $350M new high schools project will begin in late 2024.

[CREDIT: WP composite] A $350M new high schools project will begin in late 2024.
[CREDIT: WP composite] A $350M new high schools project will begin in late 2024.
WARWICK, RI — Although construction for new high schools replacing the Toll Gate and Pilgrim buildings is set for March 2025, the project is still very much a work in progress.

Chris Spiegel, the Senior Project Manager for Left Field Project Management, told the School Committee the schematic design for the buildings was not complete. He noted the team is currently working to expand the current gymnasium design to accommodate more students. Committee members expressed support for that effort. 

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) will also be providing feedback, which will be incorporated into the design, Spiegel said at Tuesday’s meeting. Spiegel noted the project was on budget and on schedule. On July 16, enabling work will be completed at both sites. 

‘ I think we need to give a little bit more consideration to that space [the gym] and make sure that at minimum, it reflects the current population.’ — Shaun Galligan, School Committee Chairman

“We have not cut any educational program from the building,” Spiegel said, noting the project’s budget was $280 million in construction costs. The total bond approved for the project is $350 million. “We are now in the process of looking at areas where we could potentially save money and bringing them to the school building committee for their approval prior to kicking them up to other stakeholder groups. There are going to be difficult conversations. It’s just part of this process.”

Committee chairman Shaun Galligan told Spiegel about rumors which had been circulating about the project. One concern was the size of the gymnasium at the high schools.

Member Leah Hazelwood asked Spiegel if it was true that the gymnasium would only hold up to 750 students. He said nothing has been decided yet.

“We were told 750 might be too small when we presented it the first time,” Spiegel replied. “So now we’ve gone back to the drawing board to see if we can find space savings in other places.”

“I’ve heard we’re only going to one gym unlike the two we already have,” Galligan said. “I believe it would make more sense for that gym to be slightly larger in size. That is the main physical education space during the winter months. I think we need to give a little bit more consideration to that space and make sure that at minimum, it reflects the current population.”

Galligan plans to schedule a special information meeting in August for the public to find out more about the status of the two new high schools.

“People are excited,” Galligan noted. “This is one of the biggest things to happen in this community in a long time. They want to know what’s going on. There really hasn’t been an update from the school department since 2022. If we bring the public along, (any changes) will be more palatable as the project goes on.”

During the meeting, School Committee members said they aimed to keep the final schematic designs as close to what was promised as possible, but acknowledged some changes were likely.

“We always knew there would be revisions,” said School Committee Vice Chairman David Testa, urging the public to show “patience.”

“I know we need these schools desperately,” Hazelwood added. “The public made the right decision.”

In November 2022, voters approved a $350 million bond to pay for the new high schools. The total cost of Pilgrim is $175 million. The total cost of Toll Gate is $174.5 million. Last April, the Committee approved Dimeo Construction to serve as Construction Manager for the new high schools. Saccoccio and Associates will be working on the design for Toll Gate. Pilgrim will be designed by Saam Architecture. 

Warwick K – 8 study shows reading ability improvements

Lisa Schultz, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented favorable results from the IReady spring study for K-8 district wide. Schultz said Winman Middle School, Lippitt and Norwood Elementary schools showed the highest growth and performance in the district for reading. Lippitt went from the bottom quadrant to the top. 

“I think the progress the students have made is totally amazing,” said Superintendent Lynn Dambruch. “I think we have an atmosphere here where we want to do our best and that’s important. I’m so proud.” 

The July 9 Warwick School Committee meeting was streamed live to, and can be viewed at, YouTube.  

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.

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