Cost of Fixing RI School Buildings are $2.2 Billion, Says Report

Thursday, September 14, 2017


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School buildings in every district of the state received a failing grade in Rhode Island’s first ever “Schoolhouses Report.”

The report projects that $627.5 million in high-priority construction and repairs are needed to keep students and teachers warm, safe and dry in their classrooms.

The statewide cost to bring all school buildings into ideal condition is estimated at $2.2 billion. READ THE REPORT

"Every generation of Rhode Islanders has worked hard and made sacrifices so the next generation has more opportunity than the one before. But most of our classrooms and school buildings haven't been improved in 25 years. We must make a once-in-a-generation investment in our school buildings to address immediate health and safety needs in every district, and to give our children the 21st-century classrooms they need to compete in the world today,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

"Most facilities are not equipped to promote student achievement in the 21st century, to say nothing of the alarming health and safety hazards that exist in several buildings. We cannot claim to care about academic performance if we continue to force our students, teachers, and staff into buildings like this every day," said the Union backed coalition Fix Our Schools.

"Fix Our Schools now knows that Rhode Island can no longer ignore this incredible challenge, and acknowledging just how urgent this problem has become is only the first step."

The Report

The report was commissioned by the School Building Authority and completed by Jacobs Engineering.

The report breaks down five levels of priority costs, ranging from critical to aesthetic enhancements. The $627.5 million safe, warm, and dry standard represents priorities 1 and 2 from the total facility deficiencies.

Of that number, $54.5 million in deficiencies are considered "priority 1," or "mission critical concerns," such as building safety or code compliance. 

Raimondo Creates Schools Task Force

Following the release of the report, Raimondo signed an executive order creating the Rhode Island Schools Task Force.

The group will consider district feedback and public input to develop a plan that includes potential funding streams and recommendations on how to maximize resources.

The task force will report its recommendations to Raimondo by December 2017. 

"This is a call to action, and it is our hope that this data-based approach will empower communities to thoughtfully prioritize their needs and make smart investments, accordingly," said Commissioner Wagner. "RIDE will continue to support districts in their efforts to modernize and improve school infrastructure, with a renewed emphasis on projects that have emerged as most urgently needed for the safety, well-being, and success of our students,” said  Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner.

The task force, which is co-chaired by Treasurer Magaziner and Commissioner Wagner, includes the following members:

  • DOA Director Michael DiBiase, School Building Authority Advisory Board
  • Senator Hanna Gallo (Cranston, West Warwick) on behalf of the Senate
  • Jamestown Town Administrator Andy Nota, on behalf of the League of Cities and Towns
  • Joseph Dewhirst, Chairman, Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corporation
  • Michael Sabitoni, President, RI Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager, Laborers Local 271
  • Frank Flynn, President, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals
  • Larry Purtill, President, National Education Association of Rhode Island and Member, Council of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Kinzel Thomas, Providence School Board, on behalf of the RI Association of School Committees
  • Barry Ricci, Chariho Superintendent, on behalf of the RI Superintendent's Association
  • Patricia Flanagan, M.D., Pediatrician-in-Chief at Hasbro Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
  • Neil Steinberg, Rhode Island Foundation President
  • John Hazen White, Jr., Chairman, and Owner, Taco Comfort Solutions
  • Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

Related Slideshow: The Power List - Health and Education, 2016

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Inside Man

Russell Carey - A name few outside of Brown’s campus know, but Carey is the power source at the Providence Ivy League institution. 

Today, his title is Executive Vice President and he has had almost every title at Brown short of President. Carey is a 1991 graduate of Brown and has never left College Hill.

While Brown’s President Christine Paxson — who is functionally invisible in Rhode Island — is managing alumni affairs and fundraising, Carey is influencing almost everything in Rhode Island.

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Top Raimondo Appointment

Nicole Alexander-Scott - MD, MPH, and rock star in the making. As Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, she is fast developing a reputation as someone in the Raimondo Administration who can get things done. Her counsel and leadership on developing a strategy on opioid addiction has been widely been lauded.

In addition, she has handled the mundane - from beach closings to food recalls - with competency. An expert in infectious disease, it may be time for her to become a strong leader on Zika.

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Ronald Machtley - Bryant University's President rightfully deserves to be on a lot of lists, but what few understand is that Machtley’s influence extends far beyond Bryant’s campus in Smithfield. Machtley could make this list as a business leader or as a political force as much as for education.

Machtley is recognized for transforming Bryant University from a financially struggling regional college to a university with a national reputation for business.

Machtley serves on Amica’s Board and the Rhode Island Foundation, and also serves on the Board of Fantex Brands.

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Power Broker

Larry Purtill - While Bob Walsh gets the face time as the Executive Director in the media for the NEA of Rhode Island, NEARI President Purtill tends to be the inside man who gets things done.

The teachers' largest union is formidable, but is still reeling from the beat down it took when Gina Raimondo’s pension reform cut the benefits of teachers disproportionately over other employee groups. 

Make no mistake about it - not much happens in education in Rhode Island without Purtill's sign-off.

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Mim Runey - While Rhode Islanders wait, and wait some more, for development on the 195 land, Johnson and Wale's University's Runey is watching it come to fruition, as JWU is set to open the first completed building on the former Interstate on September 1, when it will host a ribbon cutting for its John J. Bowen Center for Science and Innovation. 

Under Runey, JWU continues to establish its foothold as one of the country's top schools for culinary training. Now Runey will oversee the addition of the new building on the old 195 which will house the university's School of Engineering and Design and its biology program. 

In 2015, students from the School of Engineering & Design participated in the construction of the Holocaust Memorial on South Main Street, a collaboration between the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the Holocaust Education Resource Center of Rhode Island.

A true community partner in every sense, JWU under Runey's watchful eye is expanding to an even greater presence in Providence. 

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Chairman of the Board

Edwin J. Santos - The former banker is Chairman of the Board of CharterCare, after having been a top executive at Citizens Bank. He has been a board leader for Crossroads, Washington Trust, Rocky Hill School -- you name it and Santos has helped to lead it.

His best work to date just might be at CharterCare, where he has helped the once fledgling hospital (Roger Williams Medical Center) into a growing hospital system.

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Lion Tamer

Weber Shill - He serves as the Chief Executive Officer of University Orthopedics, or in other words, dozens and dozens of oh-so-confident docs.

Shill has a background in Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from the Whitemore School at the University of New Hampshire. Experienced in managing medical groups, but this group is big and influential.

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Timothy Babineau - President and CEO of Lifespan, Rhode Island's biggest healthcare organization, where financial challenges make the job that much more complicated.

Now, the critics (GoLocalProv included) are raising concerns about the multi- billion dollar organization's refusal to make any contribution to the City of Providence. Lifespan is like General Motors, big and hard to innovate the organization.  


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