Proposed school construction is largest project NP has seen

Proposed school construction is largest project NP has seen

Above is the site plan for the proposed new Stephen Olney Elementary School, which was presented at a school committee meeting last week by Luis Torrado of Torrado Architects. Both Stephen Olney and James L. McGuire Elementary schools may be built new, if voters approve.
RIDE will reimburse 56 percent of $75 million proposal

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The $75 million proposed school construction project, as well as health and safety improvements for North Providence schools, is the largest project the town has seen, school officials say.

John McNamee, finance director for both the town and schools, said residents won’t see an impact on the tax rate, if any, for about four years, if the project is approved.

Members of the school department held a special meeting last week to review a presentation of the two proposed new schools and school improvement plans with town officials, and Rep. Arthur Corvese gave an outline of financial information the school department needs in order for Corvese to submit legislation, McNamee explained.

Stephen Olney Elementary School and James L. McGuire Elementary School, built in the 1930s, would be replaced under the proposal. Marieville Elementary would be decommissioned after the new schools are built. A new building can’t be constructed on the Marieville site because of nearby power lines.

The Rhode Island Department of Education wants to see both a new Stephen Olney and McGuire school constructed at the same time, McNamee said, to eradicate the need to fund inflation costs. The finance director said he understands the town may be unable to accommodate that.

School officials are still in the preliminary stage of discussing spaces to house students during construction.

Health and safety repairs to North Providence High School, Birchwood Middle School and Dr. Edward Ricci Middle School and the remaining elementary schools would amount to approximately $16 million.

The two new schools and school improvement projects would be considered one package, McNamee and Supt. Melinda Smith explained.

If voters don’t approve the proposal, the town would still be looking at necessary health safety improvements, and RIDE’s reimbursement rate to fund the project could go down in future years if the project is delayed. Currently, RIDE’s reimbursement rate stands at 56.4 percent for North Providence.

McNamee said RIDE could reimburse at $350 a square foot after the department called McNamee and published their rates.

Bonds would be issued in stages if approved, McNamee explained, with $35 million by May of 2018, $30 million by 2019 and another $10 million in May of 2020. The first time the department would have a “fairly substantial debt service” of more than $2 million would be fiscal year 2020, McNamee said.

He explained the town would be looking at construction for at least one school in June 2017, if the bonds pass.

Currently, RIDE has more than $200 million in projects they’re seeking to approve in the state for this year, McNamee said, but he’s confident that $75 million for the two new schools will be approved by RIDE.

McNamee said, “When you look at it, we’re gong to be making a $75 million investment in our schools, which is going to cost roughly $32 million for the town.”

McNamee and Smith warned that if the project doesn’t pass in full, the School Committee will have to go back to the drawing board – and the elementary schools would still require significant health and safety repairs in addition to the improvements needed at the high school and middle schools.

School officials are pushing for a bond referendum from the state for the November ballot, as well as a letter of public support signed by Smith, Anthony Marciano, chair of the school committee, Mayor Charles Lombardi and Town Council President Dino Autiello, which would indicate the intention to fund the project with bonds, McNamee said.

Smith said, “Quite frankly, our children deserve better learning spaces.

“Our schools are in need of significant repair, and we’re at a point now where our reimbursement rate is a good number,” she added.

McNamee told The Breeze that operating cost savings would be about $200,000 a year, once Marieville was decommissioned. The possible sale of that building, he said, could put money back into the capital account.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, Luis Torrado of Torrado Architects presented layout plans for a new Stephen Olney and McGuire, which included parking lot layouts that allowed for separate drop-off zones for buses and parents. Congestion at both sites is an issue now, he noted.

He explained that when designing the site layouts for both schools, 21st century education was the focus – where students will have spaces for project-based learning, art rooms, physical education and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics rooms. Each site plan figures in the latest technology and energy efficiency as part of the requirements of building a new school, Torrado said.

Above is the site map for a new James McGuire Elementary School.

Comments

Just asking, can NP support additional financial burdens?
3rd highest in taxes in Tax Island already behind Providence and Central Falls (CF has gone bankrupt already and Prov. is headed that way, Hello NP).
The school district is 60% of our taxes now, with these current figures this will rise to 65% or more. What are the options, what does the future hold for a land locked town that can't expand it's tax revenue base, what about the 5%/year is contractual increases and what about the $66 million deficit in OPEBs (Other Post Employment Benefits) to name a few?
Someone has to put all of the facts on the table, don't you think?