STOP THIS PLAN
Preserving History, Pursuing Progress
The South Kingstown School Facility Plan has taken many twists and turns over the past three years. The original contract for the (now federally indicted) architect was $375,000. Fast forward three years, we have spent over $1,400,000 due to changes in scope, delays in submittal, and RIDE rejections. The final application was approved after split votes from three separate bodies (School Building Committee 7-4; School Committee 3-2-2 and Town Council 4-1) and was submitted to RIDE in February 2021.
The school facility plan as currently constructed is undeniably flawed. The plan abandons our unique in-town high school and instead adds on to Curtis Corner middle school, the building in the most need of repair. The plan also abandons nearly all the previously planned work at the four elementary schools, spending less than $2,000,000 in total. Over $30,000,000 worth of known issues will remain even after this $94,000,000+ project is completed. Worse, any cost overruns at any of the 6 buildings being renovated will reduce the scope of renovations at Curtis Corner, leaving our most in-need building in its current shape.
This facility plan includes a dramatic change to our town-- moving the high school from Columbia Street to the Curtis Corner Middle School location. Our community has not been included in the process since the School Committee decided to drastically revise the school facility plan on November 27, 2018. Since then, the project has shrunk in scope and increased in price.
We believe a project with a scope as large as this, which will affect the infrastructure of our town should be vetted by the community, which it was not. The only significant community input allowed was a one-time meeting held in February 2020, in which a large number of residents voiced their displeasure with the plan to relocate the high school. These concerns have been largely ignored by district leadership, who has plowed forward, disregarding the concerns of the community. These concerns were detailed in a petition recently sent to the RI Department of Education (RIDE) School Building Authority (SBA). In less than two weeks' time, this petition was signed by over 900 South Kingstown citizens, demonstrating the breadth of opposition. We are not "anti-tax" or "anti-school", but rather concerned citizens from across the political spectrum who highly value education. We are concerned about the significant risks this plan would impose on the future of South Kingstown, inclusive of our current and future students, and our community.
On May 4th, South Kingstown residents will be asked to vote on this $85,000,000 school facilities bond that will drastically change the landscape but fails to address the full scope of our school facility's needs.
Background on the SK School Facility Plan
The LEGACY PLAN was developed with a large cross-section of the community who provided input at several meetings over many months. There were four options developed and the school committee chose one of those options: Option B - which included an extensive renovation to the current high school and the closure of both Curtis Corner Middle School and Wakefield Elementary to yield operational savings of $1.66 million annually.
Soon after the 2018 election, a new School Committee reverted the plan to Option A to save Wakefield Elementary from closure, which would have resulted in $1 million less in operational savings. The new Stage 2 application was hurriedly submitted in 2019 and quickly rejected by RIDE due to numerous inconsistencies for further revisions by the School Committee and School Building Committee.
In 2019, the newly hired Superintendent suggested moving the high school from Columbia Street to the Curtis Corner Middle School site location. This idea had been previously explored twice and had been discarded by the School Committee due to site issues and prohibitive costs. However, this time, our lead project architect, who had previously stated Curtis Corner Middle School was not a viable site (citing ledge, wetlands, road, etc) then flip-flopped. He assured us Curtis Corner was now, somehow, feasible. (That same architect was indicted on federal bribery charges in November 2020.)
In January 2020, the School Committee voted to support the new Superintendent's idea to relocate our high school to Curtis Corner Middle School and abandon the Columbia Street high school location. There was no public involvement in this change prior to their vote.
RIDE requires community involvement in the school facility application. After the drastic change was approved, the Superintendent quietly planned (unknown even to members of the School Committee) and held "visioning meetings" in May 2020 with a small group of handpicked parents and her leadership team to fulfill RIDE's community engagement checkbox.
After a few missed deadlines for submission of the revised stage 2 application, the target submission date of September 15, 2020, was delayed when the Town Council acknowledged concerns expressed at the School Building Committee about the lack of documentation to support the operational savings needed to support this project. A new target submission date was set for February 2021.
After divided approvals by three government bodies (School Building Committee 7-4; School Committee 3-2-2; Town Council 4-1) and the continued absence of the required documentation of the $1.1M in operational savings. The final application was submitted to RIDE in February 2021. The original contract for the architect was $375,000. We have now have spent over $1,400,000 from changes in scope, delays in submission, and RIDE rejections. We are awaiting RIDE's decision to approve or deny the application.
One Community Workshop
Saturday February 22, 2020
Over 100 residents attended this meeting in February 2020 to express their concerns and opposition to the abandonment of the current High School. They were assured this change was not a "done deal" when, in fact, the decision to move forward and move to Curtis Corner had been decided by the School Committee by a vote taken in January 2020.
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