As a parent with two children in SK schools, why would I vote NO on a school bond? Very simply, this facility plan does not have our students’ best interest at the heart of it.
What does voting no mean?
Voting no simply means we create a new plan. Superintendent Linda Savastano has stated multiple times, as recently as last week’s communications subcommittee meeting, that if the community decides they do not want this plan, we start over and we build a new one that the community supports. This is not the end of the facilities discussion if this bond fails.
What are our options if we start over (and are they better than the option in front of us?)
The plan presented to us focuses on making the high school the focal point of the district. The problem is that our town has already stated SK cannot afford to build new and the site selected requires a completely new build, in order to do it right.
So do we settle and build half a high school, as the current plan provides? No, we don’t settle when it comes to our children and their education. I don’t want my now 8th grader spending his senior year at CCHS sitting in the same moldy, un-renovated classrooms that he’s sitting in now at CCMS- especially after we spend $60M there. Additionally, the plan in front of us virtually ignores our elementary school needs. This plan will only add to our building issues, not solve them.
Prior community visioning sessions in 2017 and early 2018 spent time focusing on priorities, categorizing them as needs, wants, and dreams. The planned CCHS is in the dream category for SK, unrealistic and very likely to turn into a long-term financial nightmare. The project as planned is incomplete. Cost overruns will further reduce the scope of work leaving even more future work. At that point, the town will be unable to support additional funding as it will have incurred 20 years of debt service from this bond. So additional funding to complete CCHS will need to come from the school’s operational budget, hence directly affecting the quality of our students’ education. What will be on the budget cut list then....sports, arts, world language/ DLI, STEAM? What are we willing to give up for an idyllic dream building?
Renovating the current high school at Columbia Street is a stronger option and one we can afford, while also addressing our elementary school needs. Before my son started high school, we went to an open house where design renderings were showcased. There were plans in place and those plans could be a strong starting point. Additionally, renovating our current high school will not require all the site work and wasteful spending required at CCHS. It will also keep our high school located close to town, allowing students to easily walk to after-school jobs and internships and otherwise support the local economy as they do now.
By consolidating and redistricting the elementary schools, we can build a plan that focuses on operational savings, ensuring this project doesn’t impact the quality of our educational programming. The overarching goal of these building plans is to enhance our students’ education. Without operational savings and a fiscally responsible, district-wide strategic long-term plan, the quality of our student’s education will suffer and the yearly battles over the school’s operational budget will only intensify.
What about the push for this 15% extra bonus incentive?
The potential 15% reimbursement loss will be a small price to pay for the right plan going forward and could save taxpayers at least that much in repairs and future unmet needs. The entire plan causes a relatively small impact on local taxes, and the 15% incentive even less so. For the average homeowner, the additional incentive will save $60 per year, not nearly enough to justify a sub-standard plan.
This isn’t about taxes. We need to make the best decision for our children and our town, period. Timing, potential reimbursement deals, etc. should not factor into what the best plan actually is for our town, our kids, and our finances. I’m disappointed we are here. I wish the plan was better. I’ve heard so many people say that. I’m willing to take a stand and say no, stop this plan and build a better one for our students. We must fix our schools. Voting NO to Stop This Plan simply stops this plan, not the need.
Over the past year, both during my run for school committee and my advocacy on this issue, I’ve talked to so many parents, teachers, and students who want better for this district. I have no doubt that by working together, we can build a better plan, one that we can be proud to present to the public and RIDE with confidence.