On March 22nd I attended and testified at the House Finance Committee’s hearing on the Governor’s school infrastructure bond proposal referred to as Articles 5 & 9. If approved by the legislature these bonds will appear on the November ballot for voter approval. The committee heard a detailed presentation about the proposed legislation and how it would be paid for. Governor Raimondo testified how this was a once in a generation investment.
There was much discussion about maintenance requirements on a go forward basis so that taxpayers could be assured that we will not be back in the same place 15 years. The state has done its due diligence and has crafted a plan that will ensure that our cities and towns plan their capital projects wisely. We all know how costly school construction is, which is why so many maintenance and repair projects have been put on the back burner for years. This plan will provide the financial incentives necessary for cities and town across the state to address their aging school infrastructure. For Portsmouth and Middletown this additional incentive could be as much as an additional 20%.
On Monday, March 19th, the Governor visited Portsmouth Middle School. She was able to see firsthand what a nearly 50 year old building looks like. She listened to teachers speak about our movable walls that are no longer movable without risk of injury; the saggy ceiling tiles; and poor air circulation. She also observed firsthand the poor acoustics that are inherent with the learning pod building style of the early 1970’s. She toured the interior rooms, noting that no outside windows or skylights were present, which we now know makes for a suboptimal learning environment. It was noted that the architect of our middle school could not have foreseen the current need for more electrical outlets to support today’s use of technology in the classroom.
As Portsmouth Schools looks forward to completing our current five-year capital improvement plan, our most pressing health and safety concerns (priority 1 and 2 projects) will have been addressed; keeping our students warm, safe, and dry. We are also well aware that there are other school districts in the state that have buildings in far worse shape; however the Jacobs Report is very clear that even the best maintained schools have age related issues that local budgets will never be able to address. This is why the State’s partnership is critical.
On the same evening of the Governor’s visit, the Portsmouth School Committee passed a resolution in support of the Governor’s proposal to make significant investments in our statewide school infrastructure.
It is important that we make these investments to improve educational outcomes of our youth. There is much research showing that attendance, discipline and performance all improve in up to date settings
to advance our economic competitiveness by improving the educational outcomes of our youth, this in turn will improve our states economic competitiveness. The kids of our state deserve to learn in 21st century learning spaces and as leaders we need to make sure this becomes a reality for them in the 21st century!