Council OKs schools redesign letter, paving way for process to move forward to state level

Council OKs schools redesign letter, paving way for process to move forward to state level


WESTERLY — The Town Council on Wednesday granted unanimous authorization allowing Vice President Mario Celico to sign a letter of interest to notify state education officials that the town will move forward with the next planning phase for a schools redesign project.

The letter will accompany a Stage 1 submittal to be filed by the School Committee with the state Department of Education. The School Committee envisions a planning process that will result in a proposed plan focusing on the town’s elementary schools but also work to address safety code deficiencies at Westerly High School and Westerly Middle School.

During a meeting with RIDE representatives in September, Elementary School Building Committee members learned that RIDE will review applications for funding reimbursement using an assessment of all school buildings in the state conducted by Jacobs Engineering of Portsmouth as a guide for prioritizing work.

RIDE also explained, during the meeting, that current demographic information will be required as well as enrollment projections for five years from the district’s application. RIDE is also requiring a detailed educational plan for the entire district for kindegarten through Grade 12.

As a result, the School Committee voted Tuesday to follow a schedule that is expected to result in a funding request to be submitted in 2019. A referendum on proposed borrowing is also expected to occur in 2019.

The building committee, working with Robert Hendriks, an educational planner with Educational Legacy Planning Group of Fishkill, N.Y., will develop educational specifications and then a detailed design plan. The process will include focus groups and an educational summit.

The Jacobs study assigned a facility condition index to each school building in the state. Westerly schools had an overall facility condition index of 24.9 percent, which falls into the company’s “fair” category. The two other categories are good and poor.

Local officials anticipate addressing the deficiencies found by Jacobs through two funding sources — the school district’s annual capital expenditures budget and bonding. While work is needed at all of the district’s schools, officials anticipate the majority of the work will occur at the elementary schools.

The high school was renovated in 2010 and the middle school was built in 2005; both projects were part of the district’s Vision 2020 initiative, which envisioned renovations to the elementary schools as the third and final piece.

Councilor Jack Carson asked that the council be “informed through the process and not just when we are asked for” approval of the final plans.

The Stage 1 submission report was prepared by The Robinson Green Beretta Corp., the Providence-based project architect hired by the building committee.

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