By James A. Diossa
On Nov. 7, residents of East Greenwich will vote on a $150 million school bond referendum. If approved, the bond would finance the construction of a new facility for the Frenchtown Elementary School, a new or renovated facility for Hanaford Elementary School, and other much needed repair and construction projects.
The town of East Greenwich enjoys a stellar and well-earned reputation for the quality of its public education. However, many of the town’s school buildings are very old, ranging from 54 to nearly 100 years, and require significant investments to repair them, address latent issues such as asbestos abatement, and bring them up to contemporary learning standards. Additionally, there are reports of overcrowded schools where children are being taught in trailers and makeshift classrooms. No child should have to learn and no teacher should have to teach in such conditions.
Like so many other communities, investment in school infrastructure has been deferred for years. In fact, the estimated costs in maintenance and repairs alone are $22 million. By supporting the bond, East Greenwich’s school districts’ needs will be met for the next several decades.
Creating a more equitable educational environment districtwide for elementary school will help ensure that students have a swift transition to middle school. Especially as learning environments will now be in alignment with the town’s long term strategic plan – which is intended to empower students to achieve their full potential by encouraging life-long learning and positive contributions to society.
Some may wonder if taking on this additional debt could lead to a property tax increase. It is impossible to predict future economic conditions, but we can all agree that, left unchecked, the town’s school buildings will continue to deteriorate and cost taxpayers millions to repair. Although the town is seeking authorization for $150M in building investments, if conditions are favorable, the town may borrow less. If East Greenwich qualifies for bonuses allowed by the Rhode Island Department of Education, the town is eligible for a reimbursement rate of up to 55 percent.
As someone who attended public schools that were not exactly optimal, I understand and value the importance of ensuring that every student can learn and blossom in a quality learning environment – in East Greenwich and across the state. Therefore, I encourage all voters to vote YES on the school bond referendum.
James A. Diossa is the general treasurer of the State of Rhode Island.