As a lifelong educator I have been observing and studying the current debate over the proposed School building projects and the upcoming Bond Vote on May 4. We need caution here, because if this plan is approved, this will be the limit of what the town can borrow.
It is well known that the foundation of a great education is one based in cutting edge programs and inspiring teachers. There are some who say they are for this new building because it will create “a center for green, intellectually stimulating education… for thinking and civic engagement, for a sustainable and an egalitarian world.” Impressive words, however, all of these incredibly important, essential goals are based on programming and excellence in teaching, and not based on a building. If this is now not the case, a building will not change that. With vision, one can see that living here in Southern R.I., we have everything we need to teach our students sustainability, interdependence, and new vocational opportunities in growing green industries. We have unique opportunities for our students through a flagship research university. Let’s look around us and ask, “What do we truly need?”
By keeping the high school at the Columbia Street location positive things happen. It allows students to easily go to after school jobs and take advantage of other learning opportunities. Our merchants in town would continue to see after school business. (This was the reason for not closing Wakefield Elementary - has anything changed?) We should honor the legacy gift of the property on which the high school is located. This was gifted to the town for this purpose, to educate our children, and we should honor that. We can build on, renovate, or build anew on what this space has already, without recreating these elsewhere. This in-town location already has all the infrastructure in place to support the school’s needs.
By resetting the process and starting over, all the residents of South Kingstown could be allowed to participate in the process. We are just coming out of a year-long pandemic, and now the town is set to vote on May 4, which is precipitous. RIDE has not approved the plan and has replied with many concerns, too numerous to list here.
By voting no on May 4, we could then improve all our schools more cost effectively. $60 million of the $85 million bond is to build additions onto the most deficient building in the school system. Much of that is for pre-construction, site improvement, mediating ground water issues and ledge rock, paving a parking lot (over lovely green space), and a new entrance onto South Road. These precious funds could be used in so many more effective ways.