Chariho breaks ground on learning academy and celebrates educational equality

Chariho breaks ground on learning academy and celebrates educational equality

The Westerly Sun

WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — Officials gathered on the Chariho campus Friday for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy, where construction actually began in August.

State Rep. Blake Filippi, of Block Island, whose district includes Charlestown, said the new facility for students with special needs would enhance an already outstanding school system.

“I think the Chariho school district is one of the best in the state, and this is just another feather in its cap,” he said.

Building Committee member Fred Stanley, the former Hope Valley-Wyoming fire chief, said, “It’s something we worked on for quite a while. I was never impressed with the old building as a retired fire chief, and I’m really glad to see the project going off. I think it will be a big advantage to Chariho.”

Standing next to the construction site, Superintendent Barry Ricci said, “I am absolutely thrilled to see the work out of the ground and on its way, so all of the children in the district will have equitable facilities.”

Since 2004, the school has been housed in trailers at the back of the Chariho campus. Equity for students at the facility formerly known as the RYSE School was the major issue in the multiyear campaign to persuade voters in Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton to approve a bond of up to $6 million to build the new school.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for equality of education for all students,” School Committee Ronald Areglado said.

Sylvia Stanley, who chairs the School Committee, recalled her first tour of the trailers with Lisa Macaruso, the committee member who heads the building panel.

“She and I were elected at the same time,” Stanley said. “She took this on as a project. We toured the facilities and then went back to the superintendent and said ‘We need something else,’ and Lisa carried the ball.”

Building Committee member William Day said the need for a new school has existed for years. “Any time you put trailers on a school campus, it’s designed as a temporary fix to a long-term problem, and when they get that slab poured, you’re going to see the walls go up very quickly and people are really going to see the impact of this building.”

The Rhode Island Department of Education has approved $5.2 million for the new building and will reimburse the district up to 65 percent of the construction cost.

Manual Cordero and Mario Carreno, representing the Rhode Island School Building Authority, said they were pleased that the state was a partner in such a worthy project.

“When this building is built, it will surely be the finest school in the state,” Carreno told the audience.

Hopkinton Town Council President Frank Landolfi said he was grateful to Macaruso and the other members of the Building Committee for involving the three towns from the beginning.

“All three presidents, initially, and then the subsequent meeting at the Town Council to inform the rest of the council members of the project and why it was needed,” he said.

Virginia Lee, president of the Charlestown council, said “I am so happy this day has come. I am absolutely delighted that we are finally building a real school, for all the students in the Chariho system.”

The new building, an addition to the middle school, is scheduled to be completed by the Ahlborg Construction Corporation of Warwick by the fall of 2018. The Providence architectural firm, Robinson Green Beretta, is designing and managing the project.

Ahlborg Vice President Glenn Ahlborg said that despite the tight construction timeline, the work was on schedule.

“The foundation is completed, all the underground plumbing is installed, the site construction is progressing very well,” he said. “We plan to have the parking lot, the initial binder, paved by the end of October so we can open up more parking spaces...You’ll start seeing the masonry walls going up next week. The slab will be poured.”

Macaruso called the groundbreaking “a culmination of the three towns coming together to help us fulfill a vision for equity for all our kids.”

Sarah Algieri, who chairs the Chariho Special Education Advisory Committee, said she was looking forward to leaving the old trailers behind.

“We’ve come a long way from that first tour of the trailers,” she said. “I can remember feeling really sad that some of our students were not receiving an equitable education...I am proud that as a community, we were able to bring the three towns, Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton, together, and do what was best for our kids.”


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