PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island leaders held a news conference Wednesday to highlight school construction projects that have been completed with a taxpayer-approved bond as they ask voters to approve another one this fall.
The Statewide School Construction Bond approved by voters in 2018 provided $250 million in upfront “pay-as-you-go” funding to repair and replace crumbling school buildings across the state.
“The fact that we’ve allowed buildings to crumble is such a shame, but we’re not doing that any longer,” R.I. Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said.
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Infante-Green and Gov. Dan McKee on Wednesday released the 2022 School Building Authority (SBA) Report, Renewing the Dream, which they said describes the work being done to build high-quality facilities statewide.
Renewing the Dream is the SBA’s first report since 2017. Officials said it showcases 11 case studies on major renovations or full building replacements that have been completed, along with another six ongoing projects.
“We are continuing to make progress in providing every child in Rhode Island with modern school facilities where they can get an excellent education,” McKee said. “For too long, our funding structures have left our most at-need cities and towns behind, but our entire state team is working tirelessly to change that. Together, we can give every student in Rhode Island the world-class schools they deserve.”
Infante-Green discussed the Spaziano Elementary School Annex in Providence, which is set to be demolished and rebuilt in the same location.
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By May, all of the money will have been designated to school construction projects. McKee is proposing a second $250 million bond to address more schools’ needs.
“The buildings are not just about being safe, warm and dry,” Infante-Green said. “It’s about having an environment where kids can actually learn. Where the building helps them learn. So it’s no more about what we used to have, it’s about what we need to be current, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
“We’re always talking about equity, but if we’re not putting buildings in places that have never received funding, then we don’t mean equity,” she continued.
Included in the bond is specific funding for the Facility Equity Initiative, a program to provide underserved districts with greater access to school construction funding. The initiative provided $20 million in total funding to Central Falls, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Providence, and West Warwick.
Infante-Green said the money used for this was leftover from other projects they have already finished.