SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Two committees have been formed to oversee planned construction work at the town’s schools and the variables that may affect the projects.
The School Building Committee, which features members appointed by both the Town Council and the School Committee, will oversee and plan for the work on the school buildings. The committee is required by the Rhode Island Department of Education, and it will specifically be focusing on the restoration of South Kingstown High School and any construction that will be needed at Broad Rock Middle School and any of the elementary schools.
“There is the master facilities plan that the School Committee voted on, which is Plan B, if you will,” Town Manager Rob Zarnetske said. “But now that has to be fleshed out. Now it has to be converted into an actual, actionable plan, and that’s how this committee will help.”
Zarnetske said the process will not include planning the future use of Wakefield Elementary School and Curtis Corner Middle School, both of which would be closed and repurposed under the option chosen by the School Committee. He said the Town Council and town administration will be responsible for deciding the fate of those schools “deemed surplus and no longer needed for school purposes.” However, the town administration and the council cannot proceed until they receive indication from the School Committee, or the administration informs them with specific details.
“We’ve been handed a report that says Curtis Corner [Middle School] and Wakefield [Elementary School]’s use may be discontinued in 2022, I believe,” Zarnetske said. “But again, we haven’t been given a formal letter or indication from the school department or the School Committee that they tend to discontinue the use at a date certain. Until that happens, how the Town Council is going to want to proceed can’t happen ... The whole idea with a school building committee is to focus on building the best facilities that you’re going to be using.”
While the building committee works with the consultant hired to lead the planning process, RGB Architects, along with the School Committee and school administration, another committee, called the Contingency Committee, will focus on the conditions that may affect that plan. Those conditions could include the demographic statistics, housing and revenue thresholds that might divert from current plans, the price of steel or anything else that could affect the plan.
“This is a pretty smart design for a multi-million dollar project,” said Zarnetske, who noted that the Contingency Committee was formed by the School Committee. “You have a group of people who understand construction and building operation and finance working on plans [for] your schools. At the same time, you have another group that is sort of detached from that immediate planning exercise who are looking at the global conditions that may affect our ability to get the project done. And that’s providing an input into the school building committee and their planning and oversight of construction. It’s a pretty good design, in my view.”
The Contingency Committee will include School Committee members Scott Mueller, Emily Cummiskey and Roland Benjamin; Town Councilors Bryant Da Cruz and Liz Gledhill; Jennifer Krueger, who works at the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale; Liz Berman, executive director of the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce; Steve Brophy from the Wakefield Village Association; Zarnetske; Maryanne Crawford, chief financial officer for the district; and three members of the community, Chris Roman, Nichole Mulanaphy and Jason Ralph.