Voters say yes to upgrading city schools

Voters say yes to upgrading city schools

Devin Baptista and Ryan Greenless help with the voting at Agnes Little School on Tuesday. (Valley Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

PAWTUCKET – City voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $220 million investment in local schools, continuing the significant progress made over the past five years.

“For many years we have overlooked the impact that facilities can play in improving outcomes for teachers and students,” said Supt. Patti DiCenso of the bond’s passage. “I am grateful to the taxpayers for recognizing that our students deserve not only to be ‘safe, warm, and dry,’ but to have adequate air quality, acoustics, lighting and 21st century designs to prepare them for meaningful post secondary careers. Our children are our future.”

By approving Question 4 on the ballot, local voters qualify city schools to take part in the state’s planned borrowing to improve educational facilities, which was approved statewide Tuesday with passage of Question 1. Both the state and local votes passed by a wide margin, with about 85 percent of total voters saying yes to both spending measures with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

A minimum of $165 million of the $220 million approved Tuesday, or 75 percent, is set to be paid for by the state under the plan, with an absolute maximum of $55 million paid by the city.

Officials promoted the bond question as a way to continue the progress achieved with renovations to Potter-Burns Elementary, Nathanael Greene Elementary, and the Pawtucket Annex, among other upgrades.

School Committee Chairman Jay Charbonneau, a re-election winner in Tuesday’s election, said school officials and staff will now work together with community members on a joint facilities committee.

“We will look to build on our partnership with the City Council and mayor’s office to continue to provide the very best learning environment for all our children. We are at an unprecedented moment in Pawtucket’s long and storied history, and it will require the entire team to accomplish our shared goal of making Pawtucket public schools the best place to educate children in the state of Rhode Island. I look forward to the work ahead.

Pawtucket’s schools have been the focus of a $76.9 million health and safety investment under an ongoing joint initiative of city and school officials. These improvements, which include upgrades to security and facilities, were made possible by the support of Pawtucket residents through the approval of several major bond referendum questions.

The complete renovations of Nathanael Greene and Potter-Burns Elementary totaled $30 million. The bond payout by the state for the schools was 83.6 percent, a number also expected under Question 4 on the ballot. The 75 percent figure is derived from the lowest that would be reimbursed across the state.

Upgrades are planned across the district, including complete renovations of Tolman and Shea High Schools and Baldwin Elementary School.

Voters Tuesday also voted in a landslide to fund millions of dollars more in street repairs.

Rhona Giko casts her ballot at Nathanael Greene School on Tuesday.
Maureen and Jim Faraday cast their ballots at the polling station in Slater Park on Tuesday.