Regarding South Kingstown’s school facility $85 million bond vote on May 4, despite being a lifelong advocate for education, students and faculty, I can’t support this plan. In fact, this is my first time to reject an educational bond. I am ready to approve funding a school facilities project, but not this one.
Factors which led me to this decision:
1. The $85 million funding offers only a partial renovation of CCMS with several classrooms and some other areas remaining in their current state. In addition, the chemistry lab isn’t included for renovation in this plan. In no way will this plan give us “a whole new high school.” Yes, there will be additional features added to CCMS but if you’re not familiar with them, please read about the plan online.
A SKHS renovation would be more comprehensive, yet less costly. It would accommodate an increase in student population, and allows easier access to CTE internships and opportunities in the Wakefield retail, healthcare, and business communities. Plus, SKHS doesn’t face the potential environmental constraints of CCMS’ ledge and wetlands. SKHS is “healthier” than CCMS.
2. In light of the significant history of mold and mildew at CCMS, determining the cause of this problem and resolving it should be a priority and it’s unclear whether mold abatement costs are included or whether such work is a priority.
3. SKHS can better accommodate an increase in student population than CCMS. After its new high school was built, Newport experienced an unexpected increase in its high school population, which related to Newport residents transferring from private schools to Newport High School.
4. One earlier assessment by a consulting firm concluded that CCMS’s location, with significant ledge and wetlands, made it an unacceptable building site. I believe that within three years or less, the firm reversed its opinion and deemed CCMS as a valid site for the high school relocation. No environmental engineer was involved in the planning process. How much of the surrounding land is actually buildable?
5. Please don’t limit our access to our beloved Curtis Corner Park (CCP), which offers passive and active recreation for people of all ages. This park is within walking distance of several large neighborhood plats and allows access to nature, walking trails, tennis courts, a large field, a preschool playground, a registered historic cemetery, and a disc golf course. To quote our director of Parks and Recreation, it is the gem of our park system.
On any given day, there can be several groups, as well as, individuals using the park space. How do we co-exist with the increased school population?
6. Parking for non-students is critical and neighbors have mentioned that most of the new parking space will be for the increased student population and not for residents.
7. Not included in the $85 million referendum are the costs of infrastructure, such as improvement of playing fields ($1.5 million), Curtis Corner Road sidewalks, increased sewer drainage piping from CCMS to Rte. 108 (or the police station area), a four-way traffic light on South Road at the new entrance, street lighting, relocating telephone pole, etc.