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Governor Chafee, RIDE issue report on Rhode Island school buildings

Report recommends opportunities for cost savings, efficiencies

About 75 percent of the public school buildings in Rhode Island are in good or generally good condition, according to a report that Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist released today.

The “Public Schoolhouse Assessment FY 2013,” the first report in Rhode Island of its kind, includes data and information on each of the 276 public-school buildings in Rhode Island, as well as recommendations on financing, savings, and efficiencies. 

“It is essential that every school building in Rhode Island must be a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning,” said Governor Chafee. “While we face a formidable challenge because of the aging infrastructure of many of our school buildings, our communities can also take advantage of resources and ideas that will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. The report we are releasing today contains many key recommendations, and we will work to help our school leaders make wise decisions about school facilities.” 

“The detailed report we are releasing today will be a valuable tool for all of our communities to use as they make decisions about maintaining, repairing, or replacing aging school buildings,” said Eva-Marie Mancuso, Chair of the Board of Education. “We will do all that we can to help our local communities invest their resources wisely as they work to provide high-quality, energy-efficient school buildings for our teachers and students.”

At present, according to the report, 68 Rhode Island school buildings are already in good condition and another 137 are in generally good condition. There are 39 schools rated in “fair to poor” condition and 14 schools in poor condition. (There were 18 schools not rated in this report.)

Most of the school buildings in Rhode Island (70 percent) were built between 1928 and 1978. The oldest school building in the state is the Alan Shawn Feinstein School in Central Falls (1861), and the newest is the Archie Cole Middle School, in East Greenwich (2011).

“At RIDE, we are committed to ensuring that the State of Rhode Island and all local school departments invest taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently,” said Commissioner Gist. “Our School Construction Regulations set high standards for quality, safety, and efficiency, which has led both to better school buildings and to taxpayer savings. I am pleased to say that as we have achieved these savings we have also ensured that all approved projects save energy, conserve natural resources, meet contemporary requirements for technology, and are easy to maintain.”

The R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) has worked closely with all school districts during the process of approval of plans for school construction. Through this process and by adhering to the 2007 School Construction Regulations, which require efficiencies and energy conservation for all new construction and major renovations, RIDE and the school districts have reduced the average annual cost of approved construction projects from $182.7 million per year (between 1998 and 2007) to $74.8 million per year (prior to the 2009 moratorium on most construction). RIDE estimates that projects approved since 2007 have saved school districts about $90 million because of efficiencies in design, construction, and programming. 

Districts receive state reimbursement for a portion of the cost of approved construction and renovation projects. The reimbursement rate varies, based on the poverty level of the community, and ranges from a minimum of 35 percent to a current maximum of 93 percent. 

Read the report