2017-10-26 / Editorial

School fixes pricey but must be done

According to local officials, Lawn and Melrose schools need about $8.5 million in repairs.

While that’s about half of the approximately $16.3 million an independent state audit recommended, it’s still a very large number.

And, for the most part, a necessary one.

The majority of the $8.5 million is for projects that address health and safety concerns, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and will allow the schools to maintain their accreditation. Basically, the bare minimum required to take care of the aging buildings.

The town also is likely to receive about 30 percent in state reimbursement. While there would be an impact on the tax rate, some of that would be offset when the existing 30-year school bond the town is paying off ends in 2021.

For those advocating the town downsize to a single school, both buildings combined average a capacity rate of 70 percent so that option would not be practical. Enrollment would have to be close to 300 for the two schools — it’s currently about 490 — for that conversation even to get started and that seems highly unlikely anytime in the near future.

Part of the work that needs to be done concerns the roofs. That being the case, the district should strongly push for the money mentioned in the report needed to advance placing solar arrays on the roofs, maybe by partnering with a private firm like the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority did. With their southern-facing direction, they are in a perfect position to take advantage of the technology.

Since security measures remain a priority at our schools, adding video surveillance in major areas, such as the gyms, cafeterias and hallways, would be worth looking into.

Finally, we would support adding the vestibule to the Lawn School gym, not only due to the added security measure but also because it would allow for greater public use of that space if it could be secured. With public space at a premium on the island, anything that would increase those options would benefit the whole town.

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