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State officials prioritizing needs following study into RI school building conditions

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By: Chloe Leshner

cleshner@abc6.com

@cleshnerabc6

We're digging deeper into a first of its kind study into Rhode Island's crumbling classrooms. Now that state officials have a pretty good grasp about just how bad the schools are, 2 questions need to be answered. How to fix it and how to pay for it.

That report paints a grim picture of the conditions Rhode Island students learn in and with a $2.2 billion price tag to get every public school in pristine condition, the task force now has to prioritize what realistically can get done first. 

A first of its kind study into the conditions of Rhode Island school buildings has made it clear: there are classrooms across the state in need of repair.

"When a child is proud to go to his or her school and teachers feel good about working in that school, the culture is more positive which means the learning environment is more constructive," says Kevin Wagner, the Rhode Island Education Commissioner.

The cost just to make schools safe, dry and warm is more than $600 million and those projects will be tackled first. But with so many old school buildings in the state, officials are looking into a new mantra for its schools: "newer and fewer."

"Those are complicated decisions. School buildings have local identities, traditions, histories and so it's never an easy decision to close a building," says Wagner.

You can find poor conditions at schools statewide but according to the study, the districts needing the most repairs per square foot are Pawtucket and East Providence.

The Mayor of Pawtucket, not surprised to hear they top the list. He says they've already started to invest in their schools but they're looking forward to extra help.

"It's about balancing out the needs with the lack of investment in previous years and how can we afford it without overcompensating or overtaxing our residents so any input and any direction we have, absolutely," says Mayor Donald Grebien.

The task force has until December 15th to get a plan to Governor Raimondo, she says she'll have a funding proposal to the legislature in January.

(C) WLNE/ABC 6 2017

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