Rhode Island School Construction

All students deserve schools that are warm, safe, dry and equipped for a 21st century education.

The Rhode Island School Building Task Force, which was co-chaired by Treasurer Magaziner, met with educators, administrators, parents, students, financial consultants, and design and construction experts, to develop a plan that would dramatically improve the condition of school facilities, while also ensuring that those facilities would be properly maintained into the future.

The Task Force produced a plan to invest more than $2 billion in Rhode Island’s public-school buildings over ten years with an eye toward improving not only building conditions but, most importantly, learning and health outcomes for students. 

In November 2018, Rhode Island voters overwhelmingly voted in favor a state-wide school construction bond which provided financial incentives to school districts across the state to prioritize new construction and renovation projects, while also meeting stricter standards for maintenance and upkeep of existing facilities. Data indicates that the plan is succeeding. 

Rhode Island General Treasury logo

Three years after the launch of the School Construction Plan, Treasurer Magaziner released Moving Forward: A Progress Report on Rhode Island School Construction to outline progress statewide. Data indicates that the plan is succeeding.

More than $2.2 billion of new projects have been approved or are projected to be approved since the plan was passed into law. Significant investments are being made at over 200 schools across 31 districts, benefitting an estimated 100,000 students annually and creating over 36,000 jobs.

East Providence High School

East Providence High School building

Built in 1952, the East Providence High School building outlived its useful life and needed at least $100 million needed to bring the school up to compliance with minimum safety codes. Following the passage of the School Construction Bond, the city took advantage of the State funding incentives to build a new, state-of-the-art, comprehensive high school, which opened for the 2021 - 2022 academic year.

The new building has capacity for 1,600 students in grades 9-12, with sustainable design features to optimize energy usage and improve energy efficiency. It includes 45 core academic classrooms and 11 science labs and includes spaces specifically designed for Career and Technical Education  programs.

Pawtucket School District

Rendering of Winters Elementary School

The City of Pawtucket has embarked on a plan for the repair and modernization of all 17 schools, including the expansion of individual buildings and the realignment of grades. Those plans include rebuilding the Elizabeth Baldwin and Henry J. Winters elementary schools and renovating Tolman Senior and Shea high schools. Additionally, security features have also been installed at 7 elementary schools in Pawtucket.

The roof at Henry J. Winters Elementary School, which was built in 1961, was damaged, with water leaking throughout the interior of the building for years. The HVAC system, including boilers, heaters, radiators, were all at the end of their useable life, rusting and leaking, as is was the building’s plumbing, resulting in sinks and water fountains that no longer worked.

Winters Elementary School is undergoing a complete ground-up rebuild  and will provide a state-of-the art STEAM facility for students when it reopens in the fall of 2022.

Smithfield Elementary School Consolidation

Interior of a classroom

In 2018, the average age of an elementary school building in Smithfield was 61 years old and the buildings were in poor condition.

The most significant deficiencies were at the William Winsor Elementary School, which was built in 1967 and has been cited repeatedly by safety officials for its lack of a fire sprinkler system. The electrical system was outdated and plumbing fixtures throughout the school needed to be replaced.

With tens of millions of dollars needed to repair and upgrade schools, Smithfield engaged students, educators, parents and town residents to find a solution which included “newer and fewer” elementary schools. Students at Winsor and Anna McCabe would join together to go to a new school that would have the best qualities of both schools.

2017 Recommendations of the Rhode Island School Building Task Force

Cover of Recommendations of RI School Building Task Force

Chaired by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, the Task Force released a plan to make a once-in-a-generation investment to public schools throughout the state.

To encourage school districts to embark on more school repair and construction projects, the Task Force has recommended a system of targeted increases to the state's share of school construction projects, prioritizing projects to improve the safety, 21st century learning environments and operational efficiency of schools.

People listening to speaker

The Task Force also recommends issuing $500 million of state General Obligation bonds for public school construction and repair over the next 10 years, with the first bonds to be proposed to voters in a referendum in 2018. This level of bonding is less than half of the state's total capacity to issue bonds over the next decade, according to the state's Debt Affordability study completed earlier this year.

The plan was created in response to the R.I. Department of Education's 2017 State of Rhode Island Schoolhouses report, which was the culmination of a year-long assessment commissioned by the School Building Authority and completed by Jacobs Engineering. That report identified more than $2.2 billion in deficiencies in the state’s 306 public schools, more than $600 million of which are immediate “warm, safe, and dry” needs. The report also found that the state’s current level of support is causing the cost of repairing these deficiencies to grow by an average of $70 million per year.

In September 2017, Governor Raimondo signed an executive order creating the Rhode Island School Building Task Force, which considered policy and financial models with a focus on how to meet the needs outlined in the Schoolhouses report.

Task Force

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    Abney, Marvin

    Chairman, on behalf of the House of Representatives Task Force
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    Bryant, Elizabeth Burke

    Executive Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Task Force
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    Cournoyer, David

    Director of Facilities and Transportation, Johnston Public Schools Task Force
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    Dewhirst, Joseph

    Chairman, Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corporation Task Force
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    DiBiase, Michael

    DOA Director, School Building Authority Advisory Board Task Force
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    Flanagan, MD, Patricia

    Pediatrician-in-Chief at Hasbro Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University Task Force
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    Flynn, Frank

    President, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals Task Force
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    Gaines, Jo Eva

    Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Task Force
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    Gallo, Hanna

    Chairwoman, on behalf of the Senate Task Force
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    Leyva, Jhonny

    President of Heroica Construction Task Force
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    Nota, Andy

    Jamestown Town Administrator, on behalf of the League of Cities and Towns Task Force
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    Purtill, Larry

    President, National Education Association of Rhode Island and Member, council of Elementary and Secondary Education Task Force
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    Ricci, Barry

    Chariho Superintendent, on behalf of RI Superintendent's Association Task Force
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    Sabitoni, Michael

    President, RI Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager, Laborers Local 271 Task Force
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    Steinberg, Neil

    Rhode Island Foundation President Task Force
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    Thomas, Kinzel

    Providence School Board, on behalf of the RI Superintendent's Association Task Force
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    White, Jr, John Hazen

    Chairman and Owner, Taco Comfort Solutions Task Force

Task Force meetings were held throughout the autumn of 2017 and were open to the public. Information on meeting dates, agendas, and presentations are below. Additional information on the Task Force can be found here.