Request for New EP High School Moves Forward
Council Vote Tuesday, January 23rd at City Hall.
The Iconic EPHS Clock Tower is Remaining Intact.
On Tuesday, January 16th the East Providence School Committee voted to formally ask the City Council to approve its request to submit an application to the Rhode Island Department of Education ( RIDE) for help with constructing a new high school. This has been referred to as "Stage Two" of the proposal. The city council must approve this stage for the planning to continue. Council approval on Tuesday does not mean final approval is given for a new high school. It simply allows the high school building committee to "continue an application process which will allow us to continue the discussion with RIDE in a back and forth that will refine the design," said Building Committee Chairman and Ward 3 School Committee member, Nate Cahoon. "This will also determine the amount that the state will reimburse us for the effort which will be somewhere between 58% and 74% of the cost," Cahoon added.
"This Stage II application before the council is the culmination of thousands of hours of toil by the East Providence Building Committee, a volunteer panel of experts in education, architecture, finance, procurement and capital planning seeking nothing in return but a chance to serve the City they love," said Cahoon. This effort is the result of a School Committee that has worked hard with a clear vision to breathe new life into an aging school infrastructure, and to give our kids the future they deserve. Their (city council) approval is required by regulation."
School Committee-at-Large member Joel Monteiro also commented on the process. "With unanimous consent to approve the Stage II application to RIDE, the School Committee is optimistic about this plan. Without council approval on Tuesday (January 23rd), the project will cease. I am optimistic that the council will approve," said Monteiro.
School Committee Chairman Charles Tsonos is also very supportive of the plan to build a new high school. "We have an opportunity to provide our community with a state of the art, comprehensive high school. This is a positive step ahead for education in East Providence," said Tsonos. "The reimbursement rate from the state will make this very affordable," Tsonos continued.
The estimated range of the project is from $170-190 million. This is a total for new construction and demolition. Committee members point out that expected reimbursement rates will make new construction cheaper than trying to repair the current 65 year old school. "The other option for the city will be to pay $100 million plus to renovate the existing building, with little, if any reimbursement on small pieces of the cost. A renovation will cost us more than a new school and we will then build a new one in 7-10 years for much more, with still less State funding," said Monteiro.
Jessica Beauchaine, School Committeewoman from Ward 4 is also a strong supporter of a new high school proposal. "I hope concerned residents come to the council meeting next Tuesday and support this. Leaders listen to their constituents," added Beauchaine.
School Superintendent Katherine Crowley has strongly recommended the construction of a new high school. "East Providence is number one in the (state) pipeline for approvals and reimbursement funding. We've done our homework early and we are the only community in the state requesting to build a high school. If we aren't approved at this stage, I think we will miss our window of opportunity to get this done," Crowley told the last meeting of the Building Committee.
"In short we've assembled a panel of experts in public education, municipal finance, procurement, architecture, capital improvements and school administration to help usher in the next great American high school," said Cahoon. "We've been meeting since last March to complete the early stages of RIDE requirements, contract a professional Architectural and Engineering firm, and to develop a detailed schematic design and cost estimate to meet a February 1, 2018 deadline. Thousands of volunteer hours have brought us to this point, and we want everyone to understand the process, and to get an early look into the future of East Providence. We will always work to ensure that Townie Pride never sleeps, but lives through all time," added Cahoon.
Estimated Range of New School Project is from $170 million to $190 million.
74% reimbursement of $170M means actual cost to city of $44.2M.
74% reimbursement of $190M means actual cost to city of $49.4M.
58% reimbursement of $190M means actual cost to city of $79.8M.
58% reimbursement of $170M means actual cost to city of $71.4M.
The cost to try and repair and upgrade the current high school is estimated in the $100M range. Estimates predict the city would most likely have to replace the complex anyway in future years.
The City Council meeting to vote on Stage Two of this project will be at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. There had been initial confusion on social media if the general public was allowed to speak during the meeting. The council agenda lists two items: Stage Two Approval to RIDE and Adjournment. No mention of a public communication section. It appears that after much give and take on social media with some city council members and many others, public communication will be allowed.
(Photo renditions depict new high school plans. Other photos are Reporter file photos of prior damage endured by EPHS)