School Building Committee Exploring Possible Grade Realignments

by | Sep 22, 2022

The shift comes after feedback from educators and community members

The School Building Committee this week said planners are working on two “options” to present to the public in November, one that would look at district building needs with the current grade alignments, the other looking at district needs if grade alignments are changed. This is a shift – plans up to now had been focused on keeping grade alignments as they are today (K-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12).  

The panel also took a different approach at their meeting Wednesday morning from recent meetings and spent the entire meeting mapping out what needs to happen in the next two years if the town is to take advantage of extra state reimbursement incentives for school building projects. 

School Committee member Alyson Powell, who chairs the building committee, said after the meeting the decision to revisit grade alignments came as a result of feedback from teachers and community members. The panel had sought School Committee approval of a big-picture plan that included the decommissioning of Eldredge and a new school for all third through fifth grade students at Frenchtown last spring. The School Committee, however, said it wanted more input from teachers and did not vote on the proposal. That and feedback from town officials and residents prompted the decision to take more time and go back a step by looking at grade alignment possibilities. 

During the meeting, Powell acknowledged the process can be confusing, which was why they wanted to reiterate the timeline. The committee has learned it has more time before it has to submit what’s known as a “stage two” application to RIDE – it now has until September 2023. That timing would keep East Greenwich in the running for the extra state reimbursement available to cities and towns for school construction right now. 

The state already reimburses school construction it considers necessary at 35 percent. But, bowing to the reality of building infrastructure needs across state school districts, the General Assembly approved additional money for districts depending on the types of construction undertaken. For East Greenwich, the additional “incentives” mean the town could receive up to 52 percent reimbursement for school construction. In other words, the state would end up paying for more than half of the cost of the project.

But what exactly is a stage two submission? 

Stage two applications are conceptual plans that mark the start of a lengthy process that involves approvals from both the School Committee and the Town Council, approval from RIDE, and only then would the town put a school bond referendum before voters. 

It’s somewhat akin to a homeowner working with an architect who comes up with an initial broad-brush idea for a new house based on early conversations about what the homeowner is looking to achieve. Before they move forward, there could be some back-and-forth (“we want a bigger garage” or “we need an extra bathroom,” for instance). But once the basics are agreed upon, that’s when the architect would draw up more detailed plans. 

All this is to say, the town is a long way from putting shovels in the ground, according to the building committee, despite all the ideas that have been floating around.

“On the outside, voters will weigh in by June 2024,” Powell said after the meeting. “By then, we will be able to tell voters what the plan would mean for the community and what it will mean for individual taxpayers. If we’re going to ask voters to make a huge investment … there’s no way we ask them to do it without them having all the information they need to make an informed decision.”

The grade alignment options will not be unveiled until November, according to Derek Osterman of Colliers, the district’s school construction project manager. The next building committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Read more: 

Building Committee Recommends Decommissioning Eldredge

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5 Comments

  1. Mike GormleY

    Go back to K-5(formerly 6), 6-8, 9-12. Kids stay in elementary schools longer, with siblings, closer to home. Less busing across town. Administrators, teachers know younger families better. Small community feel. Renovate existing elementary schools, build one new one out by Shippee/Division.

    Reply
  2. Tori C.

    Is the school committee working with the planning committee to determine the population growth and thus enrollment increases over the next 10+ years. Just the Division St. project alone (if approved in its current state) will be a 10%+ population increase to EG, and it’s marketed to families so that increase will then cascade into the schools and substantially increase school enrollment across all grades, this requiring much bigger building and more classes and staff.
    Hopefully the committees are all talking to each other so we don’t find our beautiful town in a state of over population of all public services. Knowing there are more developers seeking to build and fill the open land we should be very wary of approving too much, current infrastructure can’t support that, and plan to leverage the support of state funds to expand the current footprints with that future in mind.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth McNamara

      Good point. The town manager and two members of the town council are on the school building committee and the planning department has been part of the process. Unfortunately, there are limits to how much the school district can project population increases, especially for housing projects still in the planning stages. I will seek clarification on that.

      Reply
  3. Judith

    I agree with Mr. Gormley. I have never liked the idea of so much separation of elementary students. I don’t think there is a valid education reason for it.

    Reply
  4. Heather

    Having lived in multiple states, I have never seen a town break up the grade alignments like I have seen here. To me and everyone I’ve talked to since moving here almost 2 years ago, it makes absolutely no sense. Also on top of it almost every family has kids at multiple schools. Start times and end times are the same for k-2 and 3-5 which put parents in a serious pickle about what kid do they pick up.

    What most people want are schools closer to home, staying with their siblings longer & life simplified. Why I have to drive pass Meadowbrook for an additional 8 minutes to take my student to Frenchtown is beyond me. Make it k-5, 6-8 & 9-12.

    And keep Eldredge open. Spend the money to keep it up to standards. We pay WAY to much in taxes for decommissioning the school to happen. No one wants a mega frenchtown elementary to be built. Start listening to the parents and tax payers.

    Reply

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