WESTERLY —Town Council President Christopher Duhamel has scheduled a special meeting for this afternoon with the hope of revisiting the council decision made earlier in the week not to support submission of a school building project application to the state.
The Stage I application is due to the Rhode Island Department of Education by Monday and, according to the department's regulations, should be signed by the superintendent of schools, the School Committee chair, and "a representative of the municipality."
School Committee members on Wednesday expressed hope the Town Council would reconsider its vote on Monday to not support submission of the application but also said they plan to submit the application regardless of whether town officials sign off. The School Committee also asked its lawyer to research whether it can pursue legal proceedings against the Town Council for allegedly interfering with the committee's ability to perform its duties.
"I don't have a consensus, if you will, to look at a re-vote, but I thought in the event new information is available the council can look at it and can re-vote," Duhamel said during an interview Thursday.
On Wednesday, the School Committee also modified its charge to the Building Committee. The Committee originally asked the Building Committee to develop a scaled-down elementary school-focused version of the plan that failed in October, but it widened the scope to allow the Building Committee to look at all district schools.
In October, voters rejected a $71.4 million project that would have resulted in a new State Street School building, renovations at Dunn's Corners and Springbrook schools, upgrades at Westerly High School and other districtwide improvements.
Duhamel said he also hoped to discuss the Building Committee's timeline with the hope of instilling confidence in the council that the committee will give proper consideration to a variety of options.
"From what I've heard, the Town Council wants to work with the School Committee and wants all the plans looked at, not just the old one, which the council won't support," Duhamel said.
Councilor Sharon Ahern, one of the four councilors to vote against supporting the Stage I application, said she would attend today's special meeting.
"If [Duhamel] wants to call another meeting, I'm happy to attend," Ahern said.
Ahern stressed that she did not expect or want the Building Committee to stop working when she voted against supporting the Stage I application. Instead, she said, she wanted the Building Committee to take more time to review potential projects and possibly file the Stage I application in August. "I'm not saying shut the process down, I'm saying keep working."
The project, Ahern said, may need a new education plan, the foundation of all RIDE-approved school construction projects. The current education plan calls for all of the district's Grade 3-5 students to be in one school.
"That means you have to have a new build," Ahern said.
Stage I applications are rich in historical data and serve as a statement of need. Development of schematic design documentation that can be used to provide dependable cost estimates comes in Stage II.
Today's meeting is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.