Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey Buddy, Can you Spare $121.6 Mil?

Recently I was given an advance copy of Middletown's Master Plan for Schools. The plan is to be rolled out this Tues. in a school committee meeting with the Town Council in attendance. Since the Sec'y of State's "E-crier" site is STILL down, along with other things, details have not been available. When will this site be fixed?

This plan was designed by a Core Committee (anyone & everyone was invited to join). Fielding/Nair, an international educational planning firm, was hired to assist. They performed a current assessment of the town's current school buildings, and aligned them with aspirations for an improved instructional system.

The results is a series of options for a future 15 year plan. These plans range in cost from a low of $108.4 mil (rennovating & adding additions to all current buildings) to$134.3 Mil (a new high school on the former drive-in movie site and rennovation/expansion of the current middle school along with 3 elementary schools). The group decided the best plan is Option C which calls for a new h.s. on the former drive-in land, rennovation & expansion of Gaudet School, and using the old h.s. with rennovation to house all elementary students. There are a total of 8 options.

All plans are based on building rennovations & aligining schools (translate as additions) with current R.I. Dept. of Edc. square foot per student standards. These new facilities will then require less capital expenditures in the yearly school budget. This is a wise move with declining State Aid & local tax caps.

What do I think of the plans? I'm still pondering. It's difficult to figure out why we should spend more on our schools when the school population is declining. The Council would not consider incorporating trash collection into our taxes, so it's difficult to think that they're going to like this proposal. I do think that bonding proposals deserve a fair shot at the polls. Let the supporters convince the rest of us that this is a good thing.

The big question mark is how much, if anything, will the State pay for? I tend to think- not much. There may be some incomes rec'd from selling of bldgs., but that's "iffy." Remember, these bldgs. belong to the School Dept., not the town, so don't be thinking new dump sites. The study also does not mention Berkeley-Peckham. It also doesn't mention the sports' fields on school properties either.

Some current rennovation projects are being carried out as a result of the 2004 school bond. Expect to hear a LOT more about this proposal. The meeting is at 6:30 in the Gaudet School library (recently rennovated).
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