To the editor:
The Rhode Island Department of Education’s (RIDE) Public Schoolhouse Assessment, last published in 2013, evaluates the condition of all public school facilities in the state.
Barrington Middle School was one of only 14 schools, out of a total of 276 in the state, given the lowest rating of 4, “poor.” That places the building in the lowest 5 percent of all school facilities in Rhode Island.
The report states that schools with this rating “need major renovations or need to be replaced. The condition of the facilities … is of particular concern because it may hinder the ability to deliver 21st Century education … Generally, as school buildings age and their condition worsens, more funding is needed to repair and maintain them.”
The Barrington Middle School Building Committee was established to examine the needs and challenges of the middle school, and to develop an economical, educationally sound solution.
A comprehensive facility assessment conducted in 2010, and updated in 2015, identified an extensive list of repairs and improvements required just to bring the school into compliance with existing local, state and federal building codes. Maintenance and repair projects alone would be a series of stop-gap measures to address the most urgent problems associated with this nearly 60-year-old building — and would include no investments in modernization.
The Barrington Middle School Building Committee explored a range of options to bring Barrington Middle School into the 21st — to become a state-of-the-art educational facility suitable for the high-quality programs it houses.
As the committee researched each of the options — including various scenarios for repairing and renovating the existing building — it became clear that both the structure and the systems within are completely outdated and deficient. Any investment to improve them would be both costly and temporary.
The Barrington Middle School Building Committee, the Barrington Public Schools and the Barrington School Committee believed then, as we do now, that the best long-term solution — from both an academic and operational standpoint — is to construct a new facility on the existing site.
The proposed project would replace the obsolete 1950s structure with a modern building designed to prepare our students for the rigorous challenges of high school, college, and careers. Classrooms and laboratories would be equipped to teach students skills and prepare them for jobs that could not have been imagined when the current middle school was built. Educational practices have changed immeasurably over the past six decades, but our children remain in a facility designed for their grandparents’ generation.
The building committee has been vigilant in containing the costs of the project. We worked closely with the architects to reduce the original proposal — a 165,000 square-foot project totaling $85 million — to the current proposal of 142,500 square feet, not to exceed $68.4 million.
Our application was among the first to be approved for state reimbursement, estimated to be at least $16 million, reducing the total expense to about $52.4 million. These costs are very much in keeping with other recent projects of similar size and scope.
We encourage the residents of Barrington to learn more about the project by visiting www.BMSproject.org and by attending our next community forum on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m. in the Barrington Middle School library.
Ms. Brody is chairwoman of the Barrington School Committee and Mr. Messore is superintendent of schools in Barrington.
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