Did you know that of our four elementary schools the youngest building was constructed in 1968 (Ashaway) and the oldest two were built in 1935 (Richmond and Hope Valley)? These buildings are special to us and are integral parts of our community. For good reason, not just the important education functions served, but because of the amazing treasure that they house.
If these buildings are so special, why is the School Committee exploring new building options? Because of our obligation to our community: we have a duty to explore these options as the responsible action of a diligent and fiscally sound elected body.
Our infrastructure is reaching its end of life. Difficult words to type, but true. Currently, these four buildings have a need for greater than $25 million in repairs; that need will grow. Because all buildings wear out in time the state has created an incentivized program to offset capital costs for new construction; doesn’t it make sense to have a conversation about what Chariho should look like for the next 50 years? Don’t our children deserve that? Don’t our taxpayers?
I recognize and respect the emotional attachment we have with our buildings, but does the value of our community reside in bricks and mortar, or is it in the children, teachers, staff and community members who work so hard to make our towns special places to call home? The Chariho School District is an outstanding example of what a community can do together when we prioritize our children’s education. I encourage all of us to engage in the “Newer and Fewer” discussion to make a decision for what is best for our community.
To engage fully we need to understand the timeline and facts of this community endeavor. I hope all of you will take the time to go to our home page (https://www.chariho.k12.ri.us/) and read the information at the bottom under headlines: “Chariho Elementary School Facility Project”. The link has all the information and timelines associated with this project.
While the project begins by considering one consolidated elementary school that is just the starting point, not the ending. Other options in consideration are two new elementary schools, expansion of our existing school(s), as well as multiple hybrid options. There is much to consider!
Multiple community engagement programs and public meetings are essential to get our best outcome. These meetings will start in May and go through August. No decision will be made until 2022. Yes, you read that correctly, 2022. No decision is being made in 2021 and the referendum on April 6th will not dictate our course of action or set in stone a one elementary school model.
Please continue to support this district and please go to the link above so that you can engage with us and share your vision of what Chariho should look like 50 years from now.
The writer is a member of the Chariho School Committee.