Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Updated April 13, 2021
This page will be updated as new information becomes available and additional questions are received. If you have a question about the projects that is not answered here, you may submit it to the School Building Committee using this form.
Please also visit the Community Presentation page for videos of School Building Committee members presenting answers to many residents’ questions collected through the questionnaire.
O1. What is being proposed for investment in South Kingstown’s school buildings?
The proposal includes investments in Curtis Corner Middle School (as the relocated site of South Kingstown High School for grades 9-12), Broad Rock Middle School (for grades 6-8), and all four elementary schools (for grades PK-5). The projects are described in greater detail on the Projects page of the site.
O2. How are the proposed projects aligned with the school district’s educational vision?
The projects are designed to support the educational vision for the South Kingstown School District, particularly to create flexible spaces conducive to innovative, hands-on, collaborative teaching and learning, in order to prepare students for success after high school. For more information, visit the Educational Vision page of the site, and see questions and answers below related to Design and Teaching & Learning.
O3. Why are the proposals being considered now?
South Kingstown is seeking to secure funds through the State of Rhode Island’s School Construction Program. The program, launched several years ago after a long moratorium on State funds for school facilities, provides significant reimbursement for approved school building renovation and construction projects.
R1. How will South Kingstown determine whether or not to move forward with the proposed projects?
South Kingstown has submitted a Stage II application to the Rhode Island Department of Education to request 50% reimbursement for the $85 million bond needed to finance the projects. The Town will hold a bond referendum vote in a special election on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in which voters will approve or reject the financing. In order for the projects to advance, the State must approve the application for reimbursement AND voters must approve the bond referendum.
R2. What is the exact language on the ballot?
The ballot question will read: “Shall an act passed at the 2021 session of the General Assembly entitled ‘An act authorizing the town of South Kingstown to issue not to exceed $85,000,000 general obligation bonds, notes and other evidences of indebtedness to finance the construction, renovation, improvement, alteration, repair, landscaping, furnishing and equipping of schools and school facilities throughout the town, and all attendant expenses including, but not limited to, engineering and architectural costs, provided that the authorization shall be reduced by the amount of certain grants received from state bond proceeds, from the Rhode Island Department of Education or from the Rhode Island School Building Authority’ be approved?”
R3. Will residents know prior to the referendum vote whether or not the State has approved the Stage II application for reimbursement?
Prior to the bond vote, the RIDE School Building Authority (SBA) is likely to notify the district about the status of the application, including a preliminary indication about whether or not it will advance. If the SBA recommends approval of the Stage II submission, the application also must be approved by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, potentially at its meeting on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, which would take place after the local bond referendum vote. The recommendation also would have to be approved by the full Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The final step in the process before authorization of the bond is a vote of the Town Council.
R4. If voters approve the referendum, but RIDE does not approve the application for reimbursement, will the projects still move forward?
No. The projects will move forward only if voters approve the bond referendum and State authorities approve the application for reimbursement. The final Town Council authorization would take place only if (and only after) these prior approvals have been met.
R5. Who is eligible to vote in the special election?
Anyone who will reach the age of 18 on or before May 4, 2021 may register to be eligible to vote in the special referendum. The deadline to submit voter registration applications is Sunday, April 4, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. Visit this page for additional details.
R6. How can someone register to vote or update their voter registration?
Voter registration forms are available in outdoor boxes at Town Hall, Peace Dale Library, Robert Beverly Hale Library, and Kingston Free Library. Completed forms can be placed in the drop box at Town Hall no later than Sunday, April 4, 2021 at 4:00 pm. Residents can also register to vote online. Persons who have changed their name and wish to update their voting record must re-register. Anyone who has moved within the Town also must re-register in order to correct their address.
R7. Can residents vote by mail in this election?
Yes. Any voter who wishes to cast a ballot by mail must submit an application by Tuesday, April 13 at 4:00 pm. The drop box for mail ballots will be open on Monday, April 5 at Town Hall. Ballots can also be mailed to the Board of Elections. Visit this page for additional details.
R8. Are there opportunities to vote early in-person?
Yes. Any registered voter may participate in “early voting” weekdays from Wednesday, April 14 through Monday, May 3 (before 4:00 pm) in the Communications Building at Town Hall.
R9. Where and when will voting take place on Election Day?
Three polling locations will be open for in-person voting on Tuesday, May 4, from 7 am to 8 pm. Registered voters in South Kingstown may go to any one of these three locations to cast a ballot:
- Matunuck Elementary School Cafeteria, 380 Matunuck Beach Road, Wakefield
- South Kingstown High School Cafeteria, 215 Columbia Street, Wakefield (School Street entrance)
- West Kingston Elementary School Cafeteria, 3119 Ministerial Road, West Kingston
R10. Can residents vote at any of the three polling locations, or only at their assigned location?
In this special election, any registered voter may vote at any one of the three locations.
R11. Will school be in session on election day, given that all three polling locations are in schools?
There will be no in-person learning on election day. All students in the South Kingstown School District (all schools) will participate in full remote learning on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
R12. How can I get more information about voting or ask a question about how, when, and where to vote in this election?
Visit the voter information page on the Town of South Kingstown website, or call the Town Clerk’s Office at 401-789-9331, ext. 1230
F1. How will the tax rate be affected by these investments? What’s the expected impact on taxpayers?
Town officials estimate that for a typical South Kingstown home assessed at $400,000, the impact on the annual tax bill would range from about $200 (if 50% State reimbursement) to $280 (if 35% State reimbursement). These figures may be lower if operational savings are realized. The increase would be phased in over time. The tax increase associated with these projects would remain in effect for 20 years.
F2. Do those tax impact estimates assume 35% or 50% State reimbursement?
If the State reimbursement reaches 50% (i.e., the project achieves all three of the 5% “bonus incentives” described in Question F3 below), the impact on the annual tax bill for a home assessed at $400,000 would be closer to $200. If the State reimburses only at the baseline level (35%), tax impact on the same home would be about $280.
F3. What will determine whether the projects earn 35% or 50% reimbursement from the State?
The application and project design will specify how the project achieves the additional requirements for the Town to receive the additional 15% in “incentives.”
Based on the current design, the projects are anticipated to qualify for the following incentives:
- “Newer and Fewer” – Consolidation of two or more school buildings into one school building: +5%
- Health & Safety – Projects that address health and safety deficiencies: +5%
- Educational Enhancements – Projects that address educational enhancements, including Career and Technical Education: +5%
F4. What portion of the $85 million is eligible for State reimbursement? What is the total cost to South Kingstown, including both the funds eligible and ineligible for State reimbursement?
The total project cost of $85 million is eligible for State reimbursement. If RIDE approves the additional 15 percent reimbursement for incentives, in addition to the base reimbursement of 35 percent, South Kingstown will be responsible for half of the costs, approximately $42.5 million.
F5. What about the possibility of cost overruns, if the projects exceed $85 million because of unanticipated problems? Where will additional funds come from?
The Curtis Corner model allows for “value engineering” – i.e., reduction in scope of renovations – in the event of cost overruns. The total cost will not exceed $85 million.
F6. With Rhode Island’s economic future uncertain, how do we know the State will be able to reimburse South Kingstown at all?
The Governor, State Treasurer, legislative leaders, and other State officials have affirmed their commitment to reimbursing projects through the statewide School Construction Program. State law requires reimbursement once the plan is approved. Of course, the state could renege, but doing so would be a violation of existing law, and the state has never done so before.
F7. How do these projects compare with similar projects (in size and cost) in Rhode Island?
There is significant variation in the ongoing and completed projects that RIDE has approved through the School Construction Program. The variations include the demographics of the communities, the condition of existing facilities, and the years in which they were undertaken, all of which affect the overall scope and costs. Some communities have opted to build new schools, while others have opted for renovation projects. Some communities have moved forward with a single project, while others have invested in multiple facilities. There are some similarities as well as significant differences between what is proposed for South Kingstown and recent or ongoing projects in Westerly, North Kingstown, Lincoln, Newport, Barrington, East Providence, and other Rhode Island districts. Additional information about other projects is available on the RIDE School Building Authority website.
F8. What levels of State reimbursement have other RI communities received for their projects?
At 35% base reimbursement, South Kingstown is on the low end, with rates ranging from 30% to 97% without incentives. This document provides details, including a list of all communities on page 15.
F9. Can the overall budget be increased to strengthen the projects or build a new high school altogether?
Town officials have set $85 million as the outside limit for total project costs, even with lower interest rates and 50% state reimbursement.
F10. How did the investment in elementary schools go from $25 million to under $2 million?
The $25 million option included additions on several elementary schools in order to accommodate the space lost by closing an elementary school in an earlier plan. When the decision was made not to close an elementary school, the remaining schools no longer needed to add space, and therefore the additions were unnecessary.
F11. What is the timeframe for paying off the bond?
The projects will be financed with 20-year bonds.
F12. What measures would the town take if business closures and job losses from the pandemic affect South Kingstown’s operational budget and the ability to continue this project?
We are constrained by the state statutory sun-setting schedule. Work on these projects must commence by December 2022 in order to qualify for the 50% reimbursement, as opposed to 35% reimbursement. If for any reason we cannot meet the 2022 deadline, we would either:
- terminate the project as designed and proceed with less ambitious renovations. If we are simply delayed, but were still able to contribute $39 million toward the project, then we could expect about $20 million in state assistance, for a total project of about $60 million; or
- continue with the $85 million project, but have to contribute about $49 million, not $39 million, in local funds.
F13. Does RIDE require more costly construction in order to be eligible for the funds? Would it be less expensive to do the work without RIDE’s approval?
No. As a government entity, the Town/District is obliged to pay prevailing wage rates regardless of whether the state contributes to the project.
F14. What will be the tax impact from increasing operational costs for the schools, in addition to the capital investments in these projects?
Operating cost will be lower, not higher. The question is whether the savings will be substantial enough to reduce the tax impact from the initial cost of construction.
F15. Will the costs of these projects impact funding for students and teachers in other areas, such as expansion of programs, professional development, hiring additional support staff, curriculum improvement, classroom supplies, etc.?
Yes, it is likely that facility costs will require operational cost reductions. We anticipate that by reducing the number of facilities and improving systems in existing facilities, the projects will yield some efficiencies (e.g. energy costs, lower transportation costs due to fewer campuses) that enable us to offset the need for significant reductions. We will have a clearer sense of potential savings and increases as the projects move through additional design phases. The school district is committed to maintaining all existing programs and services. It is important to note that many of the programmatic expenses cited in the question are funded through other sources beyond local revenue.
F16. What will happen if the bond does not pass? What will our taxes look like moving forward?
If voters reject the bond referendum, any requests for State reimbursement would have to begin again at Stage I. The School Building Committee would have to repeat the process of reviewing the school buildings and the required work to keep them “warm, safe and dry,” as prescribed by RIDE. See the list of required facilities investments presented to the School Committee in April 2020. These projects could be included in the Capital Improvement Program each year, but they would not be addressed in a timely manner.
SITE SELECTION AND USE
S1. Why does the proposal call for moving the high school to Curtis Corner, rather than renovating or rebuilding on the existing Columbia Street site?
The proposal to move the high school from Columbia Street to Curtis Corner is based on six key factors:
- The building at Columbia Street is functionally obsolete, particularly the layout of classrooms and hallways that does not allow for flexibility in teaching and learning.
- The building at Columbia Street cannot cost effectively be modified to overcome the functional obsolescence.
- The Curtis Corner building and site can more easily and more cost-effectively be converted to meet the educational needs of South Kingstown students because:
- The building was specifically designed to be easily added to, partially demolished or modified. It is constructed of Concrete Masonry Units, which are much easier to remove than the heavy masonry work at Columbia Street; and
- The Curtis Corner site has ample space around the existing building to allow for the construction of additions.
- To be competitive with South Kingstown’s peers, the Town should have a high school campus that accommodates extracurricular activities, including interscholastic sports.
- The Curtis Corner site and building provide greater flexibility for future modification of the high school as the student population changes. If the population grows, then the building can be expanded. If the population declines, then older portions of the building can be “decommissioned” and even demolished and replaced with smaller spaces.
- RIDE has indicated a preference for Curtis Corner, and while ultimately the decision about where to locate the high school is up to the community, the fact that the state’s leading educational facilities experts have expressed support for the Curtis Corner site did influence local education leaders.
S2. What options were evaluated? Who conducted the analysis? What was the cost for each alternative?
RGB and its subcontractors did most of the analyses, which included these options and estimated costs:
- Renovation of the Columbia Street School: $85 million for the total project; $65 million for Columbia Street only (same costs as renovation of Curtis Corner);
- Moving to Broad Rock (not priced due to road access constraints);
- New construction at Curtis Corner: $120+ million.
S3. Is the Curtis Corner land suitable for building? What about earlier reports that it was not viable because of ledge and/or wetlands?
Earlier reports were based on institutional recollections related to a 20-year-old plan to build a high school on top of the hill at the Curtis Corner site and recent investigations for demolition of the current Curtis Corner Middle School building, to be replaced by a new building located farther north on the site. Investigation of site conditions in the immediate vicinity of the current Curtis Corner Middle School do not show the same averse ledge conditions that exist to the north.
S4. Why isn’t the Broad Rock site being considered for the high school?
The site was not considered because of inadequate road infrastructure and no means by which to add a new entrance that doesn’t exit onto Broad Rock Road.
S5. If the high school does move to Curtis Corner, how will the Columbia Street site and the Hazard Building next door be used in the future? Affordable housing? Open space? How can we submit ideas to the Town?
Town officials have indicated that the site will likely be used for mixed-income housing – i.e., apartments and/or condos. The existing fields will be maintained as public open space. Any resident may submit ideas for the reuse of the Columbia Street property using email@example.com.
S6. The land at Columbia Street was trusted to the town for educational purposes. Will we honor that trust?
The state legislature has voided restrictive covenants such as the one on the land on Columbia Street as being contrary to public policy and the best interests of society. The legislature has declared that residents living in the community today, rather than those who lived there in the past, should decide what is in the best interest of the community.
S7. Have traffic impact studies been conducted for each site?
Yes, but they are different kinds of studies conducted for different purposes. See the Traffic Transportation Impact Study and Plan from the Stage II application.
S8. Asa Pond Road houses the town garage, dog pound, new businesses, and the state fire training facility. The road during the week has become extremely busy. What happens with the increase in numbers of students (two grades of them driving) and the increase in buses and staff at the high school at Curtis Corner?
As indicated in the Traffic Transportation Impact Study and Plan, there is an expected increase in traffic in the Curtis Corner Road area as a result of the projects. Some of that impact is offset by differentials in the time of day when traffic increases for the Town facilities and for school dropoff and pickup.
S9. What impact will moving the high school have on families who moved to downtown Wakefield / Peace Dale specifically to be close to the schools?
Individual families are in the best position to evaluate how relocation of the facility would impact their children, real estate values, and quality of life. School district officials believe that relocation will improve the quality of the educational experience of South Kingstown students and would therefore tend to increase demand for housing throughout the town.
S10. How about students who walk to their after-school jobs from the current site?
Neither the District nor the Town has specific information about how many students walk to after-school jobs. The School Committee will further examine transportation needs and impact as the projects move forward and consider adjustments to bus routes and schedules as needed.
S11. How long has the SKSD administration been located at Curtis Corner? How much was spent on those offices then? Why spend money renovating South Road School to be new administration offices?
The current Administration Building was built in 1990. The project was part of a larger expansion of the Curtis Corner building, so the precise costs are not available.
Moving the administration building from its current location has several primary benefits:
- It opens space for parking adjacent to the new high school building.
- It facilitates the adaptive reuse and possible third-party ownership of the South Road School, which will house not only school administration, but also other community-based programs.
- It also addresses the maintenance that is needed on the current administration building. This building is sound but is not properly insulated. It consists of many small offices that are isolated from one another. There is one small, windowless conference room. During the COVID-19 pandemic, occupancy of the conference room has been limited to four staff members. Prior to COVID-19, the space was not conducive to supporting professional development or a collaborative work environment.
S12. If the existing building is structurally solid, why can’t it be incorporated into the plan?
The existing Administration Building is structurally sound, but like the Curtis Corner Middle School and South Road School buildings, it was constructed so as to be easily modified or demolished. It too is constructed of Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) that can more easily and cost-effectively be removed from the site than it could be integrated into a new building.
S13. Is there a mold problem at Curtis Corner Middle School?
No. A third-party analysis conducted the week of March 29, 2021 concluded that there is not a problem with mold at Curtis Corner Middle School. The complete report is posted here. A different company conducted a second assessment on April 5, 2021 and reached a similar conclusion; the report is posted here. See also this video clip from the April 13 School Committee meeting, in which Tom Hamilton from OccuHealth Inc. describes the mold assessment methodology in schools and the results of the study at Curtis Corner.
D1. Are you considering expanding the scope to completely renovate the sections of Curtis Corner that are to remain?
Yes. The high school portion of the facilities plan is specifically designed to “flex” the rehabilitation of the existing Curtis Corner Middle School building. Redevelopment of the existing building will be expanded or reduced, depending upon funds available as the project progresses. The objective is to renovate as much of the existing building as possible.
D2. Will the Curtis Corner high school project include renovation of all bathrooms? How about the bathrooms in other schools?
Yes, the high school project will include bathroom renovations. While this part of the project has been discussed as “optional,” the district has committed to making sure that renovation of the bathrooms will be included. Upgrades to other bathrooms will be included, though complete renovation will not necessarily be done at all locations.
D3. What is proposed for the South Road School building?
The proposal includes potentially selling the building to a community-based service provider, with the option to lease back to the school district a portion of the building that will be used for school administration offices. The current plans include demolition of approximately half of the existing building.
D4. Will the trails surrounding South Road and the Curtis Corner disc golf and playing fields be disrupted or affected?
Disruption to the disc golf course and playing fields will be minimal. The current paved path through the disc golf course will be widened slightly to accommodate vehicular traffic, and some of the disc golf holes will be shortened slightly. The playing fields will be improved and expanded, including relocating fields for throwing events in track and field.
D5. How has COVID-19 impacted the proposal? For example, is a 1,000-seat auditorium practical?
School building designs have long taken public health factors into consideration, including air quality management, student circulation, contagion and surface contamination mitigation. Of course, to the extent that public spaces are designed to bring people together, to facilitate human interaction, no design can completely eliminate the potential spread of communicable diseases. Education policy must balance the need to keep students safe from foreseeable danger with the need to maximize the known benefits of healthy collaboration and social exchange.
The long-term social impacts of COVID-19 will only be known over time. Right now, there is insufficient information to conclude that large public gatherings will never resume. The performing arts are an important part of South Kingstown’s educational program and community, and therefore require appropriate spaces for rehearsal and performance.
D6. What improvements are proposed for elementary school libraries and operation systems?
Within each elementary school building, a core space (library) will be renovated to provide a multi-use 21st century space that provides various levels of engagement opportunities: small group; independent learning; and larger groups by providing various types of flexible furniture options.
D7. Why are the elementary investments limited to just the library? Could it be possible to look at adding some indoor sport/recreation space that can also serve this multi-purpose space concept?
The primary education enhancements focus on a central space in order to provide services to each student by enhancing a space that is used by all students. Budgetary constraints limit the scope of work at each elementary school. In addition to the educational enhancements prepared for the bond application project, other physical building improvements are identified in the five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Mobile, adaptable interactive flexible space will be possible through the use of furniture and technology.
D8. Will there be expanded spaces for choral and instrumental music at the elementary buildings?
Not at this time, although this could be explored during Stage III.
D9. What is happening with performing spaces and large rehearsal rooms?
These spaces are provided in the new additions at Curtis Corner for the high school.
D10. At Broad Rock, is the exterior footprint for the cafeteria/hallway/music rooms the same, or will we gain square footage in the band, chorus, and piano rooms?
There is no addition proposed at the cafeteria, although by infilling the tiered dining area, removing the ramps and stage, additional tables and seating areas are provided.
D11. At Broad Rock, where is the stage, and will its size increase to allow our performing ensembles to fit on stage?
A mobile stage is provided along the north wall to allow increased visibility of the stage. It is designed to be large enough for an ensemble, depending on its size and configuration.
D12. The current band room at SKHS is 1,836 square feet. The proposed band room at Curtis Corner in the plan is 1,597 square feet. That is a significant decrease, with the chorus room being larger. Space is needed to accommodate chairs, music stands, concert and marching percussion instruments, in addition to the space needed to accommodate a band or orchestra class of 50-70 students. The addition of the storage room is welcome but does not negate the need for floor space in the band room. Is there flexibility to adjust these designs and dimensions?
Yes, there is an opportunity to adjust the dimensions and layout in Stage III. The Music Department, band, chorus, storage and support space at South Kingstown High School totals 2,804 SF. Total band, chorus, storage and support space in the high school at Curtis Corner will equal 4,920 SF, which almost doubles the square footage of the existing programs.
D13. Were the music faculty consulted in designing the performing arts spaces?
Yes, and meeting minutes are included in the Appendix of the Stage II document.
D14. How will the project ensure that there is not a repeat of the mold issue that the new police station experienced shortly after it was built?
Where major renovations and additions occur, the buildings will be designed to meet the latest standards and code requirements for site design, envelope, and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) to mitigate moisture infiltration issues.
D15. Where will teachers and students park at Curtis Corner?
Faculty parking is provided in multiple lots, primarily in the north and south lots. Student parking is provided in the new western parking area.
D16. For energy efficiency and to prevent water sourced bacteria, why don’t we look at semi-instantaneous water heaters rather than storage tanks?
Further investigation and design of the system will occur during Stage III, Design Development.
D17. The generator is called out to be a diesel generator, but code allows for natural gas generators. They are cleaner and require less overall maintenance. Have natural gas generators been considered?
Further investigation will occur as the project is developed further in Stage III.
D18. How much land/fields/parks (total square footage of land) is being taken in order to complete the high school project?
Site development in the lower portion of the site will include additions located north of the existing building. The existing Administration Building will be demolished. A new parking area will be constructed northwest of the building. Site development in the upper portion of the site is limited to expanding the existing access road, demolition of a portion of South Road School for the tennis courts, replacement of the septic system, and new parking lot.
D19. Why is it important to have athletic fields on site at the high school?
Athletic fields support the Physical Education program as well as intramural and interscholastic sports. Athletic fields and school buildings on the same site eliminate travel for the students. We know that having the outdoor space and fields will have many positive benefits. There is much research to support this, including: (1) better educational outcomes, (2) enhanced school engagement and sense of belonging, (3) positive youth development/life skills, (4) healthier behaviors, (5) post-secondary success, (6) developing better citizens, and (7) school and community benefits.
D20. Do the plans at Curtis Corner dedicate space to therapy rooms large enough to accommodate students in wheelchairs and their equipment?
Yes, a Community Room, Occupational Therapy (OT) / Physical Therapy (PT), and Sensory Refocus Rooms are provided in addition to student support services. All rooms are designed in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
D21. There was mention of having to replace/renovate the septic system at the South Road school property. I live off South Road and we have sewers. Why not the school property?
The cost to tie into the existing sanitary line may be investigated during further construction document development. The most cost-effective alternative shall be pursued.
D22. Do the plans include any outdoor, ecologically valued spaces for learning?
Yes, the three courtyards at Curtis Corner are designed to facilitate outdoor learning. One in particular may be utilized for a greenhouse / garden / ecological area.
D23. Is there only one health classroom at Curtis Corner?
Yes, the intent is for all classrooms to be shared. Health may be provided in any classroom space.
D24. Where is the Weight Room at Curtis Corner? Cardio Room? Is a Visitor Locker Room necessary?
The current plans include a dedicated fitness center adjacent to the gymnasium with both weight and cardio equipment. The plans also include a Visitor Locker Room with lockers, showers, and toilet facilities, based in part on requests from the Athletic Department during programmatic planning meetings. As with other components included in the Stage II application, the Visitor Locker Room could be removed from the plans as part of the design process for the Stage III submission, if it is determined that other investments are a higher priority.
D25. What is the planned lifespan of the new facilities?
The projects have an estimated useful life of 30 years.
D26. What is being done to invest in health and sustainability in these projects?
The building was designed in accordance with NE-CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools in the Northeast). Improvements include increased natural light, views to the exterior, low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), high-efficiency air handling equipment, high-efficiency LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, etc. Additional sustainability options shall be explored during Stage III construction document development.
D27. Why is the proposed high school nurses’ office in the interior of the Curtis Corner building without access to open windows? Even in non-pandemic times access to fresh outside air is critical in the nurses’ office.
The nurses’ office is located next to the Main Office and Secure Vestibule for ease of access for parent pick-up/drop-off, visual control, and privacy. Unfortunately, not all spaces could be located along the perimeter of the building. However, proper ventilation and filtration will be provided. Natural / indirect daylighting may be provided by solar tubes or skylight systems.
D28. Will more than one teacher be teaching at the same time in any classroom or shared space?
No. Only one teachers will teach in each room at one time. Teachers will not have to share a classroom with two classes during the same period.
D29. Please specify the current deficiencies that would be fixed in the existing Curtis Corner building when transforming it to the high school. Is it safe to assume that any leaks, mold, etc. will be addressed and fixed?
If the bond and State reimbursement are approved, during Stage III (design), we will work with our leadership team, teachers, students, staff, parents and community to determine the priorities that will be addressed at the updated high school. Any building deficiencies will be addressed as a top priority. The restrooms, HVAC, building infrastructure, etc. will all be addressed as part of the project priorities.
TEACHING AND LEARNING
T1. How will these proposed projects improve the academic programs in the schools?
In designing a school for tomorrow, school programs and learning modalities (styles) should drive the discussion. This allows us to address questions around how students should learn, where they should learn, and with whom should they learn. We have discovered that we need teachers to work in teams, that parents and community volunteers are available to help, that businesses will offer off-site training, that community organizations will permit the use of their recreational, cultural, and sporting facilities. We now know that state standards can be better met via interdisciplinary and real-world projects. We are designing the schools to closely follow instructional needs. This does not dispense with direct or large-group instruction. Instead, it provides opportunities for traditional teaching to seamlessly connect with many other modes of learning. Simply put, it is form following function, not function (unsuccessfully) following form.
See also the Educational Vision page.
T2. What high school programs will be enhanced by the facility project?
We would expect all programs to be enhanced by the facility project. Today, our maintenance of the buildings is largely reactive. This project will enable us to have a building that has been updated and will continue to have a plan to continue to support this maintenance on an annual basis.
Every teacher and classroom will have access to shared space. This shared space will be available for all programs to extend their learning environments to space that would normally be unused. If we want cultures of learning that cultivate energy, creativity, curiosity, imagination, and innovation, then we need to create learning spaces where students feel safe in taking risks. This begins when teachers intentionally create norms of belonging in which every voice matters, model empathy, deeply listen to student needs and interests, and structure tasks so that students feel competent as learners.
The career and technical education (CTE) programs will have access to larger space that will allow teachers and students to work and learn in a more flexible and spacious environment. We will work with our community partners so that we can better design learning environments that simulate more authentic experiences.
The music program will have access to double the square footage. The entire school population will fit in the auditorium so we can have school-wide presentations. The space outside of the auditorium (lobby) will also serve as another gathering space. It will also allow us to display student work, hold meetings, and host celebrations.
The physical education and health education programs will have access to spaces that are near each other, including a health studio, fitness room, and very large gymnasium that can be divided into smaller sections. The entire high school population will fit in the gymnasium so we can have school-wide presentations, performances and pep rallies.
The library will become the heart of the building. Students no longer come to the library for information, but they do still go to the library for help. That makes equity of access more important than ever. The library will be near the cafeteria. Students will be able to access the library during lunch. It will resemble a more open and accessible design. There will be smaller rooms off of the library with clear visibility into them. The library can no longer just be a perfect reading lounge. It needs to be space that can be adjusted quickly to meet student needs as well as program needs. It needs to support students and teachers reading or working together. Students and teachers needed to be able to adjust their environment so it would work equally well for individuals, pairs or larger groups. It will now support the 21st century needs of today’s learner.
T3. How will the plans improve facilities for Career and Technical Education?
We need to support a focus on deep learning, the kind of education that higher education experts, researchers, and business leaders agree is essential to achieve that goal. See A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.
If we want our students to be curious, connected collaborators, then we need to provide physical and virtual multidimensional spaces that offer flexibility for collaboration; quiet places for reflection and cognition; active areas for investigation, inquiry, communication; and rich resources that are transparently accessible. Today we use a traditional classroom that is designed as a makeshift hospital room. We use a shed to support our construction tech program. In our current design, function follows form. The investments will allow us to have access to larger spaces where the form will follow the function.
T4. Will the elementary schools be able to consolidate resources more – e.g., social workers, unified arts teachers, school psychologists, etc.? Right now, those professionals are split between schools, and as a result, there are times that students cannot access mental health support, or library/media, etc.
We do plan on being able to leverage consolidated and increased access to resources. We will continue to review our current staff and program access. We know that our middle school students, arguably the most vulnerable age group, will have increased access as we consolidate our middle school to one site. Our grade five students will have access to programs that are better suited to their ability as they will be housed in an elementary school.
T5. What are the plans for supporting climate change education and the resilience of the natural resources around the construction and move of many more staff and students to Curtis Corner?
We know that the physical environment is critical—multidimensional spaces that offer flexibility for large- and small-group collaboration; quiet places for reflection and cognition; active areas for investigation, inquiry, communication, and documentation; and rich resources that are transparently accessible. Making the walls of the classroom transparent is not merely about redesigning space; it requires taking stock of the ways we can connect inside and outside the classroom. When students are engaged, they begin to connect both inside and outside the school and make learning a 24/7 proposition. We know that the project proposed at Curtis Corner will do this. We will develop a plan to support our impact on climate change and the resilience of the natural resources around the construction and ongoing use of the beautiful location. We will incorporate this plan and commitment to the mission of the school so that all staff and students can become true stakeholders, protectors and stewards of the inside and outside spaces that we are so fortunate to incorporate into our curriculum and programs.
T6. What are the Superintendent’s "non-negotiable" items for the project moving forward?
The Superintendent wants learning environments that support student engagement and teacher collaboration. The top priority is that we shift our learning spaces from a “cells and bells” / factory model built around traditional classrooms and hallway to a learning environment that allows our teachers to support our students’ many different learning styles. The Superintendent also wants updated restrooms to be at the very top of the list for renovation.
ENROLLMENT AND GRADE CONFIGURATIONS
E1. SKSD enrollments have been declining and are projected to continue declining. How do these projects account for that?
This project is required to utilize the projected enrollment studies. It is based upon the five-year enrollment projections and accounts for the declining enrollment reported in those projections.
E2. Do we really need four elementary schools? Can they be consolidated? What happened to the earlier plan to close Wakefield Elementary School?
The earlier plan to close Wakefield Elementary School was rejected by the School Committee in the 2018-2019 school year. The current plan instead closes the buildings on Columbia Street. This plan also leaves flexibility so if we needed to close one of the four elementary schools in the future, we could do so. We could also repurpose one of the four schools to become an early learning / preschool center. This allows us to have a flexible plan that will meet the needs of a future that has been difficult to predict. It does allow us to be responsible for the declining enrollment by removing approximately 240,000 square feet of school space.
E3. Why does the plan include moving Grade 5 to the elementary schools?
This was the plan that had been developed and designed by the previous School Building Committee and supported by the School Committee. There has also been much support to have this grade level housed in the elementary schools. The program today does follow an elementary model (one teacher all day with a class of students). It does not follow a middle school model (changing teachers for each subject area). The grade 6 model does follow a middle school model. Teacher certification (license) as required by the RI Department of Education does also align with this elementary school model as our staff are certified in elementary education and not secondary school subject specific certification for grade 5.
E4. Has the School Committee conducted a long-range plan, including projected school enrollment and a facility review, to match the number and size of the buildings to the projected enrollment?
There have been multiple enrollment studies done and internal reviews of enrollment and facilities. We are considering using an outside consultant to help us to do a study if our Stage II application and the bond referendum are approved. We would want to use an expert to analyze the enrollment, programs and learning environment use. We would make sure this work aligned with our vision, mission and goals.
E5. Has the School Committee considered redistricting?
Yes, we will need to explore redistricting when we move grade 5 to the elementary schools. We would only do this one time so we would not have multiple changes for a single student.
E6. Will elementary school students be redistributed to accommodate the addition of fifth grade? It seems some schools are much more crowded than others.
Yes, the school department will be redistricted to best determine which neighborhoods will attend what school. We will use our transportation system GIS to help us with this analysis.
E7. Does the current plan (or any previous plan) reduce any union teaching positions?
The building project would not reduce positions. A decrease in enrollment could cause a reduction of staff. Demographic studies have projected a decrease in enrollment in the South Kingstown School District. See other Q&A in this section
PROCESS AND TIMELINE
P1. Why is the community being presented with only one plan? Why are other options not on the table?
As part of the process, multiple options have been reviewed over the last 2+ years, including location options for the high school as well as expansion and renovation options for the middle and elementary schools. The application for state reimbursement must present a single specific plan for facilities development, maintenance, and improvement. The state does not consider alternative proposals. In order to comply with the state application requirements, the plan must specify the location and character of the facility investments being proposed for reimbursement.
P2. What if South Kingstown decides to “go back to the drawing board”? What are the consequences if we do not submit a Stage II proposal in February 2021?
There are three primary consequences:
- The District and the Town would almost certainly lose $10 million in state aid, because we would no longer meet the deadline to be eligible for an additional 15% of State reimbursement;
- The costs of delay would limit work that could be done in the future because construction prices increase by about 6% each year; and
- South Kingstown students will continue to be housed in inadequate facilities, which impacts educational outcomes and the district’s ability to attract and retain students.
Ultimately, if Stage II is not submitted in February 2021, the community would see a minimum of a year delay due to the RIDE submittal schedule. The following would be best-case scenario for resubmittal to RIDE:
- New Stage I Submittal: September 2021
- New Stage II Submittal: February 2022
- RIDE Approval: May 2022
- Bond: TBD
That delay would likely eliminate some if not at all of the available RIDE incentives and expose the community/projects to additional escalation and cost increases.
P3. Have you considered delaying this process until the pandemic is over, particularly to see the economic impact on residents and taxpayers?
Planning for these projects is a multi-year activity. On the current schedule, the first phase of construction will not begin until spring of 2022 and construction will not be completed until 2024. Ultimately, that decision would need to be discussed and voted upon by the elected officials on the School Committee and Town Council.
P4. If approved, when would the projects begin and be completed?
Based on the overall conceptual schedule, the design work would commence upon approval of the bond.
Per the conceptual schedule, construction activities would be staggered as follows:
- Broad Rock Middle School: Spring 2022 – Spring 2023
- High School (Curtis Corner): Winter 2022 – Summer 2024
- Elementary Schools: Summer 2022
P5. What are the accommodations that will be made for relocating students during construction of each building?
Detailed phasing and project requirements for safety and contractor conduct will be developed during Stage III of the project document development. In general, these projects will happen in an occupied-renovation condition with students/staff in the building during active construction. Adequate separation for sound, safety and construction efficiency would contribute to the overall plan and approach:
- Broad Rock Middle School will include additions to each wing of the building and connecting those additions into the existing structure and systems.
- High School at Curtis Corner: Due to phasing and schedule, there will be a period of time where construction activities will commence and overlap with student and staff occupancy before the move to the newly renovated Broad Rock Middle School.
- Elementary Schools: Improvements will be targeted for summer months subject to integration of cap. improvement work.
This plan allows for minimal impacts to the education of our current students because we can work on the renovation and additions at Curtis Corner while the building is empty.
P6. How does the committee propose limiting inconveniences caused by power disruption to those working from home or simply going about their day? Similarly, how does the committee plan on dealing with the noise and construction disruption that will occur?
Due to the nature of this work, there will be impacts on the neighborhoods adjacent to these buildings. Detailed phasing and project requirements for safety and contractor conduct will be developed during Stage III of the project document development to best plan for a mitigate these impacts. This will include analysis of impact to utilities, access control and construction traffic and noise.
P7. How can community members state their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with these plans?
There are several ways to provide comments on the Stage II documents, including:
- The District and School Committee conducted community listening sessions in early December that provided an open forum for comments and discussion;
- The School Committee and Town Council will vote on recommendations to submit the Stage II in January of 2021;
- Recurring School Building Committee meetings that provide for public comments;
- Community members can continue to share their feedback using the online form;
- Ultimately the entire project is voted on during the bond referendum in May 2021.
P8. Can site visits be arranged for the public to see the spaces proposed for renovation and expansion?
Because of COVID-19, we will work to provide appointment-based tours of the spaces beginning in January 2021. After COVID-19, we will explore options to host public meetings, events and group tours.
P9. What impact does the indictment of an RGB principal have on this process? Will RGB continue to be the architects on the project moving forward?
The District has a contract with RGB, not its principal or any other individual associated with the firm. RGB is legally obligated to perform the work it has been hired to perform; it must do so in a professionally competent and responsible way. RGB is currently engaged only to complete the February Stage II submittal and address any comments received from RIDE prior to the May vote by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. The school district has begun the process of selecting an Architectural/Engineering team to take the project from Stage III through to completion, if it is approved to move forward.
P10. How can I stay informed about news and updates related to the projects?
In addition to visiting this website for the latest information, residents may sign up for email updates, with the option to unsubscribe at any time. The schedule of past and upcoming School Building Committee meetings is posted online. Also, follow the South Kingstown School District on Facebook.
P11. What is the current status of the Stage II application?
In January 2021, the School Committee and Town Council approved submission of the Stage II application to RIDE. The application was submitted on February 4, 2021, and is now under review by the School Building Authority.
P12. How is the School Building Committee keeping the community informed and engaged about the proposed projects and the process?
In the fall of 2020, the School Building Committee expanded the community information and engagement efforts to increase awareness and involvement among residents about the proposed projects and the process. The communications and engagement work is led by the Communications Task Force, a subcommittee of the School Building Committee, and reviewed by the full committee at its monthly meetings.
The work has included a series of public events, new website, fact sheets, direct mailing to every South Kingstown household, community questionnaire, press outreach, social media, email updates, and other strategies. For additional details, including a schedule of events and activities, see the Fall/Winter 2020 Communications Plan and Spring 2021 Communications Plan (draft 4/5/21).