District trustees called the bond election, which will include two separate propositions, during the board’s Feb. 8 meeting. Proposition A will be for the amount of $694 million to cover costs related to planned improvements to district buildings, buses and vehicles. Proposition B is set to be for the amount of $56 million to improve technology devices throughout the district.
“This is the long-range vision for our aging facilities,” Superintendent Jeannie Stone said. “An important point that we will be talking about with our community [over the next few months] is that the average age of our RISD school buildings is almost 53 years old. And bond 2021 will begin the long-range vision to address all of RISD’s aging campuses.”
When the bond package was recommended to the RISD board during its Jan. 13 meeting, the bond steering committee said the $750 million bond could be achieved without a tax rate increase. RISD Chief Financial Officer David Pate also confirmed that for the board, based on current projections from the district's financial advisers Hilltop Securities, he said.
“I said in a video last week that went out to all of our community members that this will not result in a property tax increase,” Stone said. “And I said the words, ‘You have our word on that.’”
District staff explained the $694 million Proposition A will include $286 million for infrastructure and safety improvements at every campus, $139 million for teaching and learning support and $269 million for construction and renovation. Schools slated to see capacity or renovation work as part of the bond package include Pearce High School, Mohawk Elementary, Brentfield Elementary, Stults Road Elementary and Northrich Elementary. The district’s two junior highs in Lake Highlands—Forest Meadow Junior High and Lake Highlands Junior High—would also see significant construction through the bond as the first phase of the district’s middle school transformation plan. If the bond is passed, Lake Highlands Junior High would be rebuilt, and Forest Meadow Junior High would be renovated, staff said.
Additional phases of the plan, which will move sixth graders to junior high campuses, are expected to be included in future bond programs. District staff said the goal is to have middle school construction completed at all necessary campuses by the 2030-31 school year.
The middle school transformation plan will also open space for pre-K classes to be offered at each of the district's elementary schools, staff said.
“We have a chance in this bond to start the [building] process for our kids for the next 50 years,” board member Eric Eager said about why he is supporting the bond. “It is our responsibility, in my opinion, that all kids have an opportunity and access—now and in the future—to a safe, comfortable [and] engaging environment.”
District staff said RISD have a new bond website that will go live at 8 a.m. Feb. 9 at www.risd.org/bond2021.