PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Public School Department is mulling whether to knock down Mount Pleasant High School in favor of constructing a cheaper alternative.
The district, which has been under state control since 2019, touched on three proposals for the school during a community hearing Monday night.
The first proposal recommends renovating the existing building, while the second suggests knocking it down and building a new one in its place. The final proposal is a combination of the first two, with a portion of the school being torn down to make room for a new build.
While the first proposal would maintain the existing school’s appearance, the district explained that it would create a projected $80 million shortfall and extend the construction timeline. The district would also eventually need to front long-term maintenance expenses for the current school due to the building’s age.
The second proposal appears to be more cost-effective for the district. There’s sufficient funding to rebuild the school from scratch, according to the district, though there may not be enough to replicate the entire building. The district said it’s likely that the new school would not include an auditorium.
The final proposal, according to the district, would keep the building’s historic façade while also making room for newly constructed learning spaces.
The district said the last two proposals would have minimal impact on students and staff throughout the academic year, since the existing school can be used until the new building or learning spaces are completed.
12 News reached out to the district about the proposals, to which a spokesperson said Mount Pleasant will remain open as a public school. The spokesperson also confirmed that the redesign plan for the school was approved by the R.I. Council on Elementary and Secondary Education earlier this month.
“Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that more Providence students can thrive in 21st-century learning spaces such as the new East Providence High School,” Jay Wegimont explained in a statement.
State Sen. Sam Bell and Rep. David Morales said residents have expressed “overwhelming opposition” to demolishing the historic building, and they want more details about the proposals before any of them move forward.
“There was a lot of frustration from our neighbors and educators about the lack of details that were shared as we were presented with three proposals that made no reference to the interior design or classroom models that our students would be learning in, whether it be a new building or renovation,” Morales said.
The district is set on submitting the selected proposal to the R.I. Department of Education by Sept. 15. Wegimont explained that the district is at risk of losing $70 million in state incentives if a plan doesn’t move forward by then.
But Morales believes that’s too soon for a decision to be made.
“Hearing that expedited timeline added to the frustration and concerns of our neighbors, as many of them questioned why we weren’t having these concrete discussions earlier and in further detail,” he continued.
Bell described the thought of demolishing the high school as “heartbreaking.” He suggested the best way to move forward would be to renovate the existing school.
“Our students deserve a renovated Mount Pleasant High School,” he said. “With RIDE and the takeover administration having cut the repair funding for Mount Pleasant by $26.5 million, down to just $3.6 million, our neighborhood high school is in desperate need of renovation.”