Johnston’s voters are one step closer to voting on an overhaul of the town’s school buildings.
At its Dec. 21 meeting, the Johnston School Committee passed a resolution supporting a $215 million bond to pay for two new schools and two massive renovations.
The committee’s resolution “endorses and supports the construction, additions, renovation, improvement, alteration, repair furnishing and equipping of schools and school facilities in Town and all costs related”
In October, the School Committee voted to retain the SLAM Collaborative architectural firm to take the district into Stage III of the school construction process.
And following a vote by the Town Council immediately after, Johnston plans to seek legislation from the Rhode Island General Assembly so they can poll voters on a $215 million bond.
The district plans to build a new Early Childhood Center and a new Elementary School, and make major renovations at the Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School and the Johnston High School, if voters approve bond funding.
Last week’s resolution clarifies the town’s intentions.
“In order to undertake and complete the Project, there would be a need to issue bonds and/or notes in an amount not to exceed $215,000,000,” the resolution states.
Copies of the committee’s resolution will be forwarded to “every Rhode Island State Senator and Representative, including Senators Stephen R. Archambault, and Frank Lombardo, III, and Representatives Ramon A. Perez, Edward T. Cardillo, Jr., Deborah A. Fellela, and Gregory J. Costantino; every Rhode Island Municipality and School Committee; and the Governor for the State of Rhode Island.”
The resolution asks the “General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing the Town, with the approval of the qualified electors, to issue bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $215,000,000.”
The town will hold a special election, likely in March, “on a date as shall be designated by the Town Council,” according to the resolution.
In October, Johnston Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo Jr. announced the bond would likely face a referendum some time in March.
Johnston is hoping to pass the bond while the state’s still providing a high reimbursement ratio for Rhode Island public school building projects, and favorable interest rates on borrowing remain in place.
The town is hoping to see more than 50 percent reimbursement on the more than $200 million project.
“This is great,” Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena said in October. “I think … our delegation, both our senators and our reps will be glad to put this in. And we’re just looking forward to moving ahead and getting reimbursement from the Rhode Island Department of Education.”
The construction project would be the biggest education facility overhaul in Johnston’s history.
In October, the town’s legal counsel, William J. Conley Jr., answered questions on the impending bond issue vote.
“It’s supported by legislation that we will request of the General Assemblies as soon as they go into session,” Conley explained. “We appreciate having council act upon this now, so that there is no delay, as soon as the General Assembly goes back into session.”
The General Assembly is expected to return to session in the New year.
The new ECC will cost an estimated $28,600,000 and is tentatively slated to open in the summer of 2024.
The plans call for closing and then demolishing or selling all of the town’s current elementary schools — Graniteville ECC Annex, Barnes, Brown Avenue, Thornton and Winsor Hill.
The large consolidated, new elementary school will be built to educate 1,100 students in grades 1-4, and is planned for construction on town property just north of the Johnston High School.
The elementary school will cost an estimated $84,350,000, and is tentatively scheduled to open in late summer 2024.
The district will likely tackle the new ECC and elementary school first, and then move on to the high school renovation, and then the middle school project, according to DiLullo.
SLAM has proposed more than $39 million in renovations to the Ferri Middle School and a $57 million facelift at the high school.
The high school is slated for a late summer of 2024 unveiling, and the middle school repairs should be complete by late summer of 2025.
Early Childhood Center (ECC)
Johnston Elementary School
Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School
Johnston High School
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