Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Updated July 1, 2019
- What is the status of the new East Providence High School?
East Providence has begun construction of a new, state-of-the-art, comprehensive East Providence High School. The project includes the design and building of a new educational and athletic facility on the current site, with capacity to enroll 1,600 students. The proposal was been approved by the Building Committee, School Committee, City Council, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and the residents of East Providence.
- What circumstances have made this project possible?
The State of Rhode Island has initiated a School Construction Program to transform and replace inadequate public school buildings throughout the state. The program offers cities and towns significant reimbursement for projects that meet qualifying criteria. East Providence seized the opportunity to receive State aid in order to finance construction of a new high school equipped for 21st century teaching and learning.
- Why does East Providence need a new high school?
Built in 1952, the East Providence High School (EPHS) building has outlived its useful life. The infrastructure of the facility is failing and cannot be repaired or replaced in a cost-effective way. The high school was not designed to support the variety of special programs and services present in today’s schools or the delivery of a rigorous, innovative, 21st century education. The building’s classroom spaces are undersized, lack flexibility, and are otherwise not equipped to support the current or planned curriculum. The teaching and learning spaces in the Career and Technical Center (CTC) also are inadequate to support current and planned career pathway programmatic needs, making them non-compliant with applicable State Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards.
A study of all public school facilities in Rhode Island cited extensive problems with both EPHS and CTC from an operational and educational standpoint. In 2017, the Providence Journal highlighted the facilities problems at East Providence High School, describing it as “emblematic of the pent-up demand for new school facilities across Rhode Island.”
Among the problems with the current facilities:
- There is only one science laboratory for 1,500 students, placing the school at risk of losing its accreditation.
- Classrooms are significantly undersized and do not support best practices in teaching and learning.
- Career and Technical Education programs are located in inadequate spaces, out of compliance with current standards.
- Most classrooms have only one electrical outlet, which greatly limits the use of instructional technology.
- The facility is not energy efficient or compliant with best practices in safety and security.
- Faulty heating systems require some classrooms to be closed on cold days.
- The swimming pool wing is closed due to structural deficiencies and has been inoperable for five years.
- The football field and track cannot be used for competitive athletics due to poor condition.
- The mechanical / electrical room is below grade and often floods, resulting in four inches of water accumulating around critical building systems.
- The building has original HVAC and electrical components, for which spare parts are no longer available.
Additional details about the current facility conditions are included in the Stage 1 and Stage 2 submissions to RIDE. They are posted, along with photos of the existing condition of the building, on https://epbuildingcommittee.com/the-need/.
- Why not just renovate the existing building?
A thorough analysis of the building conditions and costs of extensive renovations and repairs affirmed that new construction is more viable and cost-effective in the long term. A feasibility study conducted in 2017 affirmed that the district would have to spend at least $100 million just to bring the high school up to code. That estimate included no investments in the Career and Technical Center building, no improvements to athletic fields, and no changes to the layout of the building to meet today’s educational standards. Additionally, that 2017 estimate does not account for the escalation of costs through the completion of renovations, nor does it include premium expenses for phased construction within an occupied school or expenses associated with displacing students to a “swing space” during renovations. Accordingly, the total cost of an alternative approach would have been tens of millions of dollars more than the base cost cited in the 2017 report.
- What will the new facility include?
The new facility will be a state-of-the-art, comprehensive high school, establishing the benchmark for Rhode Island high schools. It will include flexible, adaptable and collaborative project-based teaching and learning environments, improved energy efficiency, and additional safety and security features.
The new campus will feature primary use spaces that include: auditorium, Media Center, Student Commons, a central kitchen serving all schools, and a café / restaurant operated by the Culinary Arts program that is periodically open to the public. Athletic facilities will include new soccer, baseball, softball, and lacrosse fields, a football stadium and track, new gymnasium with three basketball courts, and a walking track available for community use.
The core curriculum – Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages – will be taught in state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, and studios.
The facility will enable the school to offer new and expanded career and technical education programs in highly skilled areas, including Automotive Technology, Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Construction Technology, Culinary Arts, Electrical, Engineering, Forensic Science, Graphic Arts, Allied Health, HVAC, Marine Biology, Plumbing, Welding, and Radio and Television Broadcasting.
- Did the project require voter approval?
Yes. On November 6, 2018, East Providence residents overwhelmingly approved a local referendum – Question 4 – on $189.5 million in bonds to finance the new East Providence High School. In East Providence and across Rhode Island, voters also approved a bond referendum for $250 million to make additional money available to cities and towns for school facilities through the School Construction Program.
- What is the cost of this project?
The project will be funded by a combination of State and local funds.
- The total cost of the project is set not to exceed $189.5 million.
- RIDE has determined that $135.6 million of the East Providence project is eligible for State reimbursement.
- State reimbursement on that amount is expected to be 74.4 percent.
- The City of East Providence estimates the impact on the residential tax rate to be approximately $0.76 per $1,000 assessed.
- The average assessment for a single-family home in East Providence is $170,578. At that assessment, the corresponding tax impact is approximately $130 per year, or $11 per month. (Source: City of East Providence Finance and Assessment Office.)
- Will taxes increase by that amount ($0.76 per $1,000 assessed) every year?
No. The increase will be applied once and remain in effect in subsequent years, but the increase is not compounded year after year.
- What assurance do taxpayers have that the new facility will be effectively maintained?
The State’s expanded School Construction Program makes reimbursement funding available only to cities and towns that allocate at least 3 percent of school operating budgets annually to building maintenance. If East Providence or any other community invests less than 3 percent, State funding would be revoked. In order to ensure that this requirement is met, East Providence has established a revolving capital fund, phased in over five years. In addition, the State now requires school districts to develop 5-year and 10-year facilities maintenance plans for every school building.
- Who is leading the project?
The East Providence Public Schools established a Building Committee that is leading the process of designing and constructing a new high school, with input and oversight from the East Providence School Committee. Members of the Building Committee are listed on https://epbuildingcommittee.com/about/. A team of third-party professionals has been hired to assist with delivery of the project, including:
- Peregrine Group, Owner’s Project Manager;
- Gilbane Building Co., Construction Manager at Risk; and
- Ai3, Project Architect.
- What is the timeline for the project?
The city and school district broke ground on the project on June 5, 2019. The new school building is scheduled to be ready for occupancy for the 2021-2022 academic year. The new track and football field also are scheduled to be completed by that date. Following demolition of the existing building, new parking lots and driveways, soccer and softball fields, and tennis courts are scheduled to open in 2022.
- Will the clock tower remain?
Yes. The clock tower is an important part of the tradition at East Providence High School and an emblem of “Townie Pride.” It will remain on campus.
- If the new high school will have larger classrooms, does that mean class size (the number of students in each class) also will increase?
No. The proposal has no impact on class size limits. The larger classrooms are designed to relieve overcrowding and give greater flexibility for collaborative, project-based and interdisciplinary teaching and learning practices.
- Will the new high school include spaces for the visual and performing arts?
Yes. The new facility will feature significantly improved spaces for the visual and performing arts, including new studio, rehearsal, and performance areas.
- When the project is completed, varsity home football games will be played on campus. Why can’t the team continue to compete at Pierce Field?
The lack of an adequate football field on campus requires extensive transportation of players, coaches, and equipment throughout the season, which is both disruptive and costly. The plans for a new football stadium also include a new track and other facilities for the Track and Field team. Pierce Field is not a regulation field for varsity sports. Pierce Field also is an aging facility in need of significant renovation and repair.
- Will the swimming pool be restored as part of the project?
No. The design for the new facility does not include construction of a new swimming pool. The cost is prohibitive, particularly because the State does not provide any reimbursement for spaces used solely for athletics, and the space occupied by the pool is needed for other features of the new school.
- Will students from neighboring communities be allowed to enroll in East Providence High School?
Rhode Island State law does include provisions for a student in one community, under certain circumstances, to enroll in CTE programs at a public school in another community, if that program is not available in his or her home community. This would be an option at East Providence High School only if there is space available. The student’s home city or town would have to pay tuition to East Providence for the student to enroll, under a formula established by the State.
- What new safety and security features will the project include?
The project will incorporate many of the latest best practices and developments in school safety and security, including cameras, enhanced door and window security, ballistic window glazing, critical locations provisions that will facilitate lockdown and containment in the event of an intruder, and features to enhance response times in the event of any emergency. Enhanced operational procedures and protocols will be established for access and oversight of visitors.
- How can I learn more?
There are several ways to stay informed about the project:
- Visit the project website: www.EPbuildingcommittee.com.
- Sign up for e-mail updates on the website.
- Like the project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BuildEPHS.
- Follow the project on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BuildEPHS.
- Submit questions and comments to BuildEPHS@epschoolsri.com.
If you have additional questions about the East Providence High School Building Project, please send them to BuildEPHS@epschoolsri.com. This document will be updated regularly and posted on www.EPbuildingcommittee.com/FAQ.