Capital projects, a math teacher and broadband

Discussed at School Committee meeting
Thu, 12/27/2018 - 6:45pm

“This is a meeting where we fill you in on the things that are coming five years down the road.”

William Padien, Chair of the Block Island School Committee, directed that comment to town officials prior to the committee’s meeting Monday night. Town Manager Ed Roberge, First Warden Ken Lacoste, Second Warden André Boudreau and Councilor Martha Ball were in attendance for the School Committee’s annual pre-budget meeting. School Committee member Kara Stinnett was absent.

Notable topics the committee discussed were upcoming capital budget priorities, door lock replacements, adding another math teacher, as well as an update on the Community Anchor Institution broadband network. The committee also accepted the resignation of Sarah Sue Deane as Food Service Helper, and appointed Margaret “Meg” Campbell to that vacated position.

Capital budget requests

Superintendent Michael Convery handed each town official in attendance a budget document noting an expenditure line of $857,637.20 estimated for a total of 13 capital projects that need to be addressed over the next five years. The reason for the five-year timeframe is that the school is participating in the Rhode Island Department of Education’s four-stage program, which provides for a 35 percent reimbursement for capital projects.

“You pay it out; you get it back some,” remarked Padien. “The projects have to be completed within the next five years to get the 35 percent.”

Convery told The Times after the meeting that the four stages include: (1) a needs assessment; (2) an architectural rendering; (3) construction; and (4) a completion of work verification and reimbursement. “That is the basic process,” said Convery, who noted that reimbursement is paid shortly after the work is completed.

The five projects noted as a level one priority that are in need of immediate attention are: building façade restoration ($63,398), door lock replacements ($19,968), site drainage ($16,200), security/air lock entryway ($11,510.40), and adding a sidewalk from the parking lot to the gym ($9,564).

Another level one priority is a wall to cover the gym’s insulation ($54,960). One of the biggest capital projects, noted as a level two priority, is building controls at a price tag of $330,000. Other capital projects include: new windows ($156,676.80), a cast iron water boiler ($144,000), a domestic hot water heater ($14,400), exterior door lighting ($13,680), mixing valve in the science room ($11,760), and adding shutoff valves for fire safety ($11,520).

During the discussion, Roberge said the school and town have budgeted for the school’s capital projects “to prepare for these costs. So this (capital request) list is substantially funded already. Maybe not all of it — based on the current bid pricing. But you can characterize it as substantially funded today, with existing fund dollars.”

Roberge said that the 35 percent coming back to the town from RIDE can be earmarked for future capital projects, as long as it’s within the next five years during the existence of the program.

School locks project

The School Committee voted unanimously (4-0) to accept a bid of $36,000 from the Westerly-based Prolock Services for replacing the school’s door locks with Columbine brand locks. The motion was made by Jessica Willi and seconded by Padien. Columbine locks, named after the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, allow for doors to be locked from inside classrooms.

Convery said there were two bidders involved with the school locks projects bidding process. The other bidder submitted a bid of $72,690.

“Are we changing the locks on every door?” asked Willi, who noted that the bid price seemed high.

“Yes,” said Padien. “It’s taken us too long to get this done.”

Another math teacher

Convery said the school is considering the idea of adding another math teacher to its staff. It’s unclear if this would be a part-time or fulltime position, and where the teacher would be placed. The school currently employs Jessica Wood, who teaches math “to all eighth through twelfth graders.”

“We are investigating adding an additional person who will be able to offer additional course offerings and possibly be a support person in an on-line lab setting, where students would be taking courses on-line with a real-time resource available on site,” said Convery. He said that “every grade has one math class.” 

Convery added: “It’s important to note there is no negative reflection on Ms. Wood. In fact, she is doing a tremendous job.”

Padien said the school is in need of another math teacher, but “we’re trying to figure out the best way” to solve the issue. “Whether we can afford hiring another math teacher is another question. If we add a math teacher it’s a big impact to our budget.” 

Broadband update

Convery provided the committee with an update regarding the town’s $550,000 Community Anchor Institution broadband network. The town is utilizing fiber optic strands embedded in National Grid’s sea2shore cable to build the network. Convery said the project should be completed during the winter of 2019.

Padien asked Convery, if “once the school is connected to the fiber, is it just a matter of flipping the switch” to receive broadband service.

“My understanding is — yes,” said Convery, who has been updated by OSHEAN regarding the project. OSHEAN is the North Kingstown-based service provider for the CAI project.

Roberge said the school and Town Hall are prepared and equipped to receive broadband. “Once the fiber is lit you should be ready to go.”