WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Warwick City Council has decided to move forward with a project that would build two brand new high schools.
The council approved a resolution Monday night that would ask the General Assembly to add a question on the ballot this November. The question would ask voters to either approve or reject the $350-million plan.
The debate on whether to replace the city’s two high schools, Pilgrim and Toll Gate, has stretched on for three years.
The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) would reimburse the city for roughly 50% of the project.
“We’re looking at between a 50% and 52.5% reimbursement rate from RIDE, which is very high for Warwick as our base rate is 35%,” Director of Capital and Construction for Warwick Public Schools Steven Gothberg said.
“It’s almost like build one high school, get one free,” Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said. “I mean, what a deal.”
Those in favor of the plan argue that the school buildings are both more than half a century old and students deserve better.
“They’re at the end of their usefulness,” Dambruch said. “We’re putting Band-Aids on just to keep them open. If we don’t do it now, I don’t know when we’re going to do it.”
Those against it said taxpayers can’t afford the project’s price-tag, and it would be cheaper and easier to modernize both buildings rather than completely rebuild them.
But Gothberg claims it’s actually the opposite.
“It would cost just as much, if not more, to renovate – bring them where they need to be – as opposed of building new schools,” he explained.
“Ultimately, let the voters decide,” Dambruch concluded. “That’s who should decide.”
If the question makes it to the ballot and voters approve the project, the district hopes to break ground on the new buildings as early as fall 2023.