Mayor Elorza announces community driven school facilities planning process

Mayor Elorza Announces Community Driven School Facilities Planning Process

City Prepared to Invest at least $200 million over next 10 years

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge Elorza joined City and State Officials, Providence Public School Superintendent Chris Maher, members of the All In: Providence Education Summit Planning team, local union leaders and community members to announce a robust school facilities planning process, with a strong emphasis on community engagement. Elorza also announced a 10-year commitment of $200 million in Providence public school infrastructure.

“Our students deserve to be in schools that inspire them to learn," said Mayor Jorge Elorza. "Our schools of the past cannot properly serve our students' needs of the future and this is our chance to take a leap forward."

This announcement comes four months after the successful All In: Providence Education Summit and subsequent report that was released earlier this month. The 400 summit attendees participated in five breakout sessions covering specific focus areas identified through community input, including improving facilities district wide. The session identified both short and long term solutions and advocated for the City to “develop [a] 5 year capital plan to include a financing model that prioritizes critical health and safety issues” in Providence schools. 

“We at Providence Public Schools are enthused and energized by the Elorza administration’s commitment to improving our students’ learning environments,” said Superintendent Christopher N. Maher. “We encourage the community to help us identify the most critical infrastructure priorities for the moment and to envision the most innovative solutions for the future.”

As part of Mayor Elorza’s commitment to investing in education, the FY18 budget included funding for a school infrastructure consulting team. The consulting team will be tasked with developing the Vision and Master Plan for Providence Public Schools through a process involving community and administrative workshops and presentations. The goal is to create a Capital Plan to rehabilitate Providence schools so that the facilities themselves can provide a learning environment for students that supports the curriculum and Strategic Plan as well as the needs of the community. 

Mayor Elorza announced that Frank Locker, PhD, will serve on the School Planning Consulting team for the City of Providence and the Providence Public School Department along with the Program Manager Gilbane Building Company and StudioJAED Architects and Engineers. Dr. Locker is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, where he received his PhD in Architecture, and an internationally recognized Education Planner. Gilbane and StudioJAED bring specialized school construction experience and an extensive knowledge base of the Providence Public School District facilities. The consulting team will work with the All In: Providence Education Summit planning team to engage Providence community members in a year-long collaborative process to rethink Providence school facilities and develop concepts that can improve educational delivery for every student.

"It's critical that we have school buildings that match our vision for learning in Providence. This is an opportunity to come together and make sure we're creating the conditions for students and teachers to thrive,” said Adeola Oredola, All In: Providence Education Summit Coordinator. “To get there, we need a comprehensive dialogue around facilities that includes current realities, creative ideas, environmental justice/sustainability, racial equity, and most importantly what our students say they need."

Partnering with successful community organizing efforts in Providence and throughout Rhode Island around the issue, this engagement process will result in a comprehensive 5-year Capital Plan for the Providence Public School District. The 5-Year Capital Plan is then sent to the RI Department of Education (RIDE) for approval. The community input process will include two phases, a Visioning Process and a Master Planning Process. 

As part of the Visioning Process, two workshops, curated by community partners with the expertise of city consultants, will work to envision facility options that support all students and school-based staff models. After these neighborhood based meetings, a Citywide Community Conversation will be held to review input and provide recommendations on October 17, at 5:30pm at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, followed by a final community presentation in early December. After the Visioning Process is complete there will be a Master Planning Process that will follow the same community input model. This original model ensures that the vision, options and decisions about school buildings are driven by the needs of the community first. 

Mayor Elorza announced his plans to invest at least $200 million over the next 10 years to execute the 5-Year Capital Plan, noting that the City has the ability to borrow up to $400 million, should the capital plan require additional funding after approval. Mayor Elorza also committed to exploring leveraging public and private partnerships to maximize every dollar invested in schools.

“With the city's finances improving, we can make investments in the things that really matter, like fixing our schools,” added Elorza. “We'll work creatively with our public, private, local and national partners to devote and leverage all of the necessary funds to support our students for generations to come.”

In order to fund these improvements, the City of Providence conducted a 10-Year Debt Analysis with Fiscal Advisor, FirstSouthwest. The analysis showed that total annual debt service payments on any and all school-related borrowing will decrease by $32 million through 2028, allowing the City up to $400 million in new school related bonds without increasing debt service from its FY2017 level. This analysis assumes an 83% reimbursement rate through School Housing Aid revenue from the RI Department of Education for approved school projects. 

Dates for neighborhood based engagement opportunities will be announced in upcoming weeks. Stay tuned at www.providenceri.gov/event

(release from City of Providence) 

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