For a New Middle School
From the NK DTC Policy Subcommittee: Here are the arguments we know about for a new consolidated middle school for our town. Please bookmark this space and watch for updates.
Both Davisville and Wickford Middle Schools were rated “very poor” in a 2016 statewide study of school conditions (using 2014 data). Priorities for both schools include roof work as well as replacement of doors, windows, lighting, flooring, ceilings, and plumbing. HVAC and modern efficient water heaters and kitchen equipment are needed, as well as safety improvements to fire alarms, sprinklers, and utility shut-off valves.
A typical modern classroom, with independent study areas and space for classroom libraries and group learning exercises, is around 850 sq ft. This is 100-200 sq ft larger than typical DMS or WMS classrooms.
Using current RI School Construction Regulations, both DMS and WMS require new construction to bring cafeterias, media centers, and libraries to contemporary levels, allowing for more appropriate scheduling of meals, club meetings, and other activities.
A modern net-zero school with good insulation and solar power contribution typically requires less than half the annual energy costs per square foot as DMS and WMS, with estimates reaching as low as 20-30% of the current energy costs.
Energy savings can also be financed independently, and can reduce a project’s cost 20-50% once rebates, grants, and incentives are taken into account.
Money will have to be invested in DMS and WMS soon, whether or not the bond passes, no less than $40 million, according to a 2022 estimate.
The bond cost of $167 million will be matched by at least 35% and likely as much as 55% state funds. This will result in an actual cost of $75-80 million, and a tax increase of 2.5-3%, probably less once the energy savings are accounted for.
The June presentation to the Town Council on the subject did not account for either the state reimbursement or energy savings. Nor did it account for the way school quality affects property values.
Building two new middle schools on the original sites would cost 30-40% more than building one larger one. Some aspects, such as athletic fields and total square feet, would necessarily be different, raising equity concerns.
Restoration projects are inherently difficult and uncertain, given issues of failing concrete, asbestos, mold, and other hazardous materials that may not be apparent until renovation begins.
The increased reimbursement offer from the state is for this year only will not be repeated. DMS is 50 years old, WMS is 90. We are investing for the next 50 years of our town.